John Bradshaw - A Mother at War
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This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Although military combat has historically been the domain of men, many women have seen action on the front lines. It's said that somewhere between 400 and 750 women fought in the Civil War, among them, Sarah Edmonds Seelye, who was known as Franklin Flint Thompson when she fought in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Albert Cashier was actually Jennie Hodgers and fought in more than 40 engagements for the 95th Illinois Infantry. Red Cross founder Clara Barton discovered a soldier she was treating following the battle of Antietam was, to her surprise, not a man but Mary Galloway. Women served in the Resistance movement during World War II. Some, like Dutch woman Hannie Schaft, were executed.
While they didn't serve in combat roles during World War II, about 350,000 American women served with the armed forces. The Women's Air Force Service pilots piloted planes to locations where they'd be needed. More than 1,000 women flew U.S. military aircraft at home. The Women's Auxiliary Army Corps was formed in 1942. And there was the Marine Corps Women's Reserve and other similar reserve groups. And of course, women worked in factories and in countless other ways in support of the war effort. One of the most enduring images of World War II was the famous poster of Rosie the Riveter, a depiction of a female factory worker.
There's another famous woman of war: this one a mother caught in the middle of a long, trying conflict. This mother at war may be the best known of all women of war. And we find her in the book of Revelation in chapter 12. Revelation was written by the Apostle John when he was under house arrest on the island of Patmos, today a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It's not a large island. It's just 1/34th the size of the island of O'ahu in Hawaii. It was there that John wrote what became the 22 chapters of Revelation. And right about in the middle of that book is the chapter that deals with a woman, a mother at war. Revelation 12 begins with John saying, "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars".
A great sign in the heavens, so we need to ask ourselves whether what John saw was something that we are to take literally, or if he saw something that was symbolic of something else, a representation. You might expect this to be symbolic seeing as Revelation is loaded with signs and symbols. So how do you know if it's literal or symbolic? Well, if the symbolism isn't obvious, you let the context advise you. This woman is clothed with the sun. She has the moon under her feet. She's wearing a crown, a crown of 12 stars. So if this is a literal woman, she'd have to be literally wearing the sun, literally standing on the moon, and literally be wearing a crown made out of 12 literal stars, which doesn't make an awful lot of sense. Well, why, then, is she presented this way? You'll notice that she's pure; she's wearing things of natural beauty.
Now, there's another woman, another mother in Revelation, over in Revelation 17. She's the opposite: colorfully attired, wearing jewels and holding a golden cup. That woman is described as a harlot. But our woman in Revelation 12 is described as possessing purity, and that'll matter as we read on. Revelation 12, verse 2: "And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered". She's close to delivering her Child, and she's going to do so after going through some real difficulty. She's experiencing birth pains. And now we see a great contrast: first, the pure woman adorned with only nature itself. While she embodies holiness, what comes next does not. Revelation 12, verse 3: "And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads".
We're going to find out that this dragon is Satan. The Bible will tell us that just six verses later in Revelation 12, verse 9: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world". So the pure woman is confronted by Satan himself. And that's indicative of life in this world. The devil despises anything that represents Jesus. He's been working on this planet for 6,000 years to try to erase the image of God wherever it might be seen. This is Satan, and the Bible is connecting Satan to the great blaspheming power of earth's last days. That phrase "seven heads and ten horns" appears four times in the Bible, all in Revelation: right here in Revelation 13 and twice in Revelation 17, in Revelation 13 it's connected to the antichrist, so you can know that this is Satan at his most destructive and evil.
Now, I want you to notice something. The book of Revelation isn't written in a linear fashion. It's not like the alphabet going from A to Z. It'll move forward, and then it'll double back. And that's what we see here. After introducing us to the woman about to give birth, we're given a picture of Satan, and that picture takes us back to heaven before the fall of Adam and Eve. Revelation 12, verse 4: "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born".
Satan deceived a third of the angels in heaven. When he was evicted from heaven, they came together to the earth. And you'll notice that Satan was waiting for the birth of the Child. Knowing the prophecies about the coming Messiah, he was anticipating the event. He knew his own future and the future of the world, of the universe, depended on this mother and the Child that she would have. Revelation 12, verse 5: "And she brought forth a man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne". That's the same woman we were reading about just moments ago, a woman who had a baby Boy, "who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron".
This is Jesus, the One who was caught up to God after His death on the cross. Now, ruling with a rod of iron shouldn't necessarily be thought of as severity. Jesus was the embodiment of the love of God for this world. If you said that your neighbor rules his or her family with a rod of iron, you might be suggesting that your neighbor is a tyrant. Of course, Jesus is not a tyrant. This reference is to strength and authority, not to harshness and severity. Jesus' scepter is a scepter of authority and justice. And this reference points us to Jesus as the Messiah.
Recapping verses 4 and 5, we find that Satan deceived a third of the angels in heaven and came to the earth to destroy Jesus as soon as Jesus was born. Satan's whole sordid existence has been dedicated to preventing Jesus from carrying out His work of salvation. Right after Jesus was born, Satan inspired Herod to order the execution of not only Jesus, but of all the infant boys in and near Bethlehem. Satan hoped to kill Jesus even before His ministry could get underway. But Joseph was warned in a dream to take his family to Egypt, where they stayed until after Herod was dead. Clearly Satan wasn't successful in his objective. The passage tells us Jesus "was caught up unto God, and to His throne". Five verses into this chapter and you know that the plan of salvation was successful. Jesus ascended to heaven after His death on the cross. But who is this woman? This mother at war? We'll find out in just a moment.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. The book of Revelation contains some fascinating symbols: a beast that rises up out of the sea, Jesus returning to the earth wearing a robe that had been dipped in blood with a name written on His robe and on His thigh, angels flying in the midst of heaven with messages for the entire world to hear, and a new mother who goes to war with the devil the moment she gives birth. In fact, the devil is depicted as waiting for her to give birth so he can destroy her newborn. That's a graphic picture. Revelation 12 is unique in the book of Revelation. It doesn't portray a single scene or a snapshot in time. Instead, it spans all of human history, from Satan's rebellion in heaven right down through history to the time of the return of Jesus.
Notice: "And there was war in heaven.... And the great dragon was cast out". And then, "The dragon...[made] war with the remnant of her seed," the last of her offspring. He expands his war. When Satan couldn't destroy the Child, he moved in spite and hate to destroy anyone associated with Him. Thousands of years covered in one chapter of the Bible, and that's because God is wanting to show us the development of evil, the character of Satan, who relentlessly pursues evil, and the history of the woman and her offspring. Let's go to verse 6. It says the mother at war "fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days". This starts hinting at the identity of this woman.
Remember, Revelation is filled with signs and symbols. That beast that rises up out of the sea in chapter 13? it isn't really a dinosaur of some kind emerging from the ocean. That's a symbol representing something else. Three angels in chapter 14 with messages heard by the whole world, those angels represent messengers taking the gospel to the entire planet. Revelation 20, Satan bound with a literal chain? God doesn't restrain Satan with an actual chain for a millennium. Symbols. John saw what he saw, but those things represent other spiritual realities in many cases. Here, a woman, the mother of a baby Boy. Satan tries to destroy her Child. That sounds like the experience of Mary, and it is. But the Bible writer is painting with broader strokes. You have the symbolic nature of her clothing: the sun, the moon, 12 stars. Then she's confronted by not just Satan, but by a dragon with seven heads and ten horns.
In Daniel 7, Daniel speaks of a creature, a beast with ten horns. It's one of several kingdoms that are mentioned. In Daniel 7 we're given the interpretation right there in that same passage: "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth". That's Daniel 7 in verse 23. The symbolism in Revelation shows us that the devil is working through a kingdom. The kingdom in power when Jesus was born was the Roman Empire. The dragon represents Satan working through the might of a kingdom. And we just read that the woman fled into the wilderness. While Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with baby Jesus, keep in mind that we're clearly looking at the big picture here, with the war in heaven, the casting down of Satan, and at the end of the chapter, it references "the remnant of her seed".
Twice in the chapter it says that the woman went into the wilderness for 1,260 days. That time period is repeated a little later in the chapter but expressed as 42 months. Then you've got the serpent sending a flood to carry the woman away and the earth opening its mouth to help the woman. It's clear that this mother we're looking at isn't restricted to a single person. Here's why. Those days, more than 1,000 days, during which the woman was in the wilderness, they're symbolic, too. There are numerous places in Scripture where a day is used to represent a year. Look at Numbers 14:34 where God said to Israel that each day the spies searched the Promised Land would stand against them as a year. Forty days of searching, a day for a year, meant that they would spend 40 years in the wilderness.
In Ezekiel 4, verse 6, God tells Ezekiel that each day in his certain situation would represent a year. In Daniel 9, the days of the prophecy each represent a year. That's how you get from seven days to seven years in Daniel 9:27. The 1,260 days mentioned in both Daniel and Revelation apply to a longer period of time during which the church was in the wilderness. And look at what Jeremiah wrote: "I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman". That's Jeremiah 6, verse 2. Isaiah says clearly that Zion is God's people. In fact, several times Isaiah and Jeremiah use the symbol of a woman when speaking of Israel. In prophecy, a woman is a symbol used to represent God's people. In the New Testament, Paul uses the same symbol to represent the church when he says, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ". That's 2 Corinthians 11 in verse 2.
So when you're looking at this woman in prophecy, the symbol is used to represent God's people down through time. This side of the cross, the symbol represents the church. And with the woman being pure, you're looking at God's faithful people down through the ages. Now, a word of caution with symbols: It doesn't mean that every time in the Bible that you read "day" or "woman" that it represents a year or God's people. The days of Creation were, were days, not years. Jesus was not in the tomb for three years. The woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment? A woman. It's in descriptive symbolic prophecy that these terms are symbols. So, in Revelation 12, Mary gives birth to Jesus. But then the woman is in the wilderness, God's people, the church, in the wilderness. We'll look at that in just a moment.
Mothers feature prominently in the Bible: Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Jochebed, Naomi, Elizabeth, Mary, all hugely significant. And down in the book of Revelation, a woman clothed in white who gives birth to a Son whose life is immediately threatened and is saved only by a miracle of God. Of course, Mary gave birth to that Son, but the woman in Revelation 12 represents the history of God's people down through the ages, culminating in a picture of the church in earth's last days. In verse 13 we read that "the dragon", Satan, "persecuted the woman which brought forth the man Child". Verse 14 says, "And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, ...times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent".
Throughout history the persecution against God's people has been relentless. It was only a few hundred years ago that it was against the law to own a Bible or to even possess a fragment of Scripture. The Bible-believing church was ruthlessly persecuted. During the Dark Ages, the Huguenots of France, the Waldenses of northern Italy, and many others were slaughtered in great numbers. The Bible translator William Tyndale was burned at the stake not because he was a criminal of any kind but because he translated the Bible. That was his crime. John Hus was burned at the stake, again, simply because of his Bible-based teachings; in England, Latimer and Ridley and countless others.
Martin Luther wasn't executed, but it wasn't for the want of trying. The church, God's people, was persecuted. The church was in the wilderness. Many Christian believers fled to remote locations. People like the Waldenses worshiped in caves at times in order to avoid capture by a medieval church that was bent on their destruction. This is why John wrote that "the earth helped the woman", God's people, and "opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth". Revelation 12:16. But I want you to notice that this chapter ends in victory for Christ and His people. It says in verse 17, "And the dragon", Satan, "was wroth", angry, "with the woman", the church, "and went to make war with the remnant of her seed", the church of earth's last days, the remnant of those that remain at the end, like remnants of fabric left over after the majority of the cloth has been sold, a remnant, those remaining, those remaining faithful.
The devil will make war with the church of the end times. Can you imagine that happening? Of course you can, because in some parts of the world the church is being persecuted right now, and it's extraordinarily difficult to be a believer in Jesus. In some countries, believers cross the border into other countries to be baptized because being baptized is illegal where they live. But even where there's no persecution, we can see that the devil is at war with the church. Look at the way he's attacked the church: the assault on biblical teaching, the decreasing respect for the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
More and more Christians say they don't believe in the virgin birth or a global flood in Noah's day, and that they do believe in evolution. Discounting the virgin birth, discrediting the Flood in Noah's day, and claiming evolution is in any way consistent with Scripture might even do more damage to the church than persecution. Making the Bible just another book, rationalizing away the Flood, denigrating the event responsible for the creation of the world, God Himself intentionally intervening to bring this world into existence, promoting the idea that God is not the Creator of the world, this shows how for centuries the devil has been warring with the church, gradually undermining God's authority and the authority of Scripture and eroding faith in God.
But look how it ends: God's people faithful in the end of time. They "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ". That's Revelation 12:17. They're faithful to God. Their lives are characterized by obedience to His Word. They're living by faith in His Word, and they're making Christ and the cross preeminent in their lives. They're fully surrendered. They've prayed the prayer that says, "Not my will, but Yours, be done". And they have the testimony of Jesus, the teachings of Scripture, of Christ and all of His prophets. It's a triumphant end for Jesus and His people. We know there's pressure on mothers today. It seems that's always been the case. This mother, the woman of Revelation 12, she's been at war since before her Child was born. And that war against evil continues until Jesus returns.
It might be that there's a war raging inside you, personal battles, spiritual battles, a war with sin that threatens to overwhelm you. It might be doubt. Maybe you can relate to the father in Mark 9 who cried out to Jesus with tears and said, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief". God is there for you. He's been with His people down through time. When Satan attacked in the Garden of Eden, God promised a way of escape. His people were enslaved in Egypt, and by His mighty hand God led them out of Egypt in the most spectacular of ways. They wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, and God fed them with manna and brought water out of a rock. That same God is with you now. The history of God's dealings with His people testifies to that. You're fighting personal battles?
God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". You're dealing with spiritual battles? God says, "Be still, and know that I am God". Sin threatens you? God says that where sin abounds, "grace does much more abound". You have moments of doubt? And the wise man says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart". We're thankful for our mothers. And here in Revelation 12 is a mother whose very existence speaks to the love of our heavenly Father, who longs to spend eternity with you. Do you want to go? Do you want to claim your place in eternity? You can. You can claim it now. Receive Jesus as your Savior right now. Or recommit yourself to Him, right now. And know that the peace of Christ, know that acceptance and forgiveness and the gift of everlasting life are yours. Pray with me now.
Our Father in heaven, we come to You in Jesus' name, and we are thankful that the Bible makes clear Christ and His people triumph at last. Between now and then, it's evident that we are at war. We read the dragon was angry with the woman and went to make war with God's people down to the end of time. And, Lord, that would be us. Thank You that You are our defense and our strength. We want to confess faith in Jesus today as Lord and Savior.
Friend, is that your desire? Would you say, "Yes, Jesus, save me. Jesus, be my Lord. Heavenly Father, be my Father"?
We thank You for the promise of Jesus' soon return, that great day when we will be gathered together to be with You forever. Let that day come soon, we pray. And we thank You in Jesus' name. Amen.