Today’s reading: Revelation 9-12.
John was shown an earthly temple and told the Gentiles would trample it for forty two months. This period of three and a half years hearkens back to the vision of Daniel, who was told that there would be a period of distress for God’s people such as never had been since the beginning of time. This Great Tribulation would begin at the half-way point of a seven-year treaty made with “the ruler who will come.”
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27
“The ruler who will come” breaks the treaty, desecrates the Jewish temple, and initiates the Great Tribulation. Daniel was told that between the start of this tribulation, when the abomination is set up in the temple, and its end, there will be 1,290 days, or roughly three and a half years. This prophecy implies that the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt (there has been no temple since it was destroyed in 70 AD). Perhaps the treaty with the “ruler to come” will pave the way for this end-time temple.
During the three and a half years of the Great Tribulation, the same time that the Gentiles will trample the temple, two witnesses will stand in the temple area and prophesy to the lost world. Like Moses and Elijah they will send plagues and stop the rain. Like Joshua and Zerubbabel at the time of the exiles’ return, they will pour themselves out on behalf of God’s people. No one will be able to stop them until their witness is complete. Then the Antichrist will kill them, but God will resurrect them and take them to heaven in a display of his mighty power.
Then the pendulum of Revelation swings back in time to the birth of Jesus. In allegorical fashion John describes a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars. She labors to give birth to a son who will rule the world with an iron scepter, the Lord Jesus. As she labors the great red dragon, Satan, stands ready to devour her child, who is snatched up to heaven. Who is the woman? Not the church, since Jesus gave birth to the church rather than the other way around. Not Mary, because this woman is pursued by the dragon during the same three and a half year period associated with the tribulation. She most resembles Joseph’s vision of the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to Joseph. Jacob recognized the dream concerned himself (Israel) and his family. This woman is Israel, but also the universal assembly of God’s people in every age, Jews and Gentiles who “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (An alternative interpretation says that this prophecy refers specifically to believing Jews in the tribulation.)
Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). John saw a great battle in heaven between Satan with his angels and Michael with his angels. Satan lost and was expelled from heaven. Commentators argue about when this did or will happen. Some say it describes Satan’s original fall from grace, others say it describes Satan’s loss of power with the victory of Jesus on the cross, and still others say it will happen just before the tribulation. The results are the same for all these possibilities: the kingdom has come, and the devil works furiously in the short time left to him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! 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.” Revelation 12:10-12
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