“When the dragon realised that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time. Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.”
John’s vision of the woman and her journey clarifies a bit and more information emerges. The dragon, or the devil as we assume, is after her. But with divine protection, he had no chance of reaching her. He did his best to drown her with “a flood of water that flowed from his mouth”. As an aside, what a strange weapon. In John’s vision, would we not have expected him to see the devil using more conventional weapons of the time? Arrows or swords perhaps?
But according to the commentaries, the flood represents an overwhelming disaster. Think about a tsunami hitting a coastline and the resulting destruction, as we have seen in recent years. The Old Testament refers in several places to a fear of a flood, such as in Psalm 69:15, “Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deep waters swallow me, or the pit of death devour me.”
As we considered recently, the woman represents the Church, or the Jewish nation, or a combination of both. Some of the old saints have suggested that the flood represents public opinion, expressing hostility to the Church as a whole. A scenario where the governments and politicians make public declarations, or pass laws, that are hostile to Christian Churches and all who worship within them. And we have seen the establishment of clandestine churches in some countries, driven underground by the actions of the country’s leadership, with the general population implementing their evil sentiments on any Christians they can find. In 21st Century Planet Earth, we see such a scenario well established in countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea, China, India and others. In these places being a follower of Christ is not a safe life choice.
In his vision, John saw the earth swallow up the flood of water, thus helping and saving the woman. Perhaps this means that the Christian Church established in countries where Christians are persecuted receives protection from God. And it is true that in some countries, Christianity, even though officially oppressed, has flourished in underground churches. China is such a country, where it has been estimated that there are ninety six million Christians, just under seven per cent of the population. Churches there are regularly shut down by the authorities and their leaders arrested, but they continue and grow anyway.
Our verses today conclude that a very angry devil makes war on all God’s children everywhere. He fights against “all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus”. Sadly, that is so true, with persecution against Christians so prevalent all over the world. The UK charity “Open Doors” estimates that 360 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution of one kind or another.
So what do we pilgrims make of all this? We of course stand firm in our faith, confident that by doing so we will one day receive the reward awaiting us in Heaven. In Matthew 24 Jesus warned His disciples about what was going to happen in the End Times, and taught what they should do. We read, “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:9-13 – emphasis mine). Our salvation is assured but the narrow road we follow will not be easy. And we read in today’s verses from Revelation, that Christians who hold the line of their faith will be constantly hassled and attacked by the devil. So we pray for our Heavenly Father’s protection, as we continue to do His will. We pray that His love and grace covers us as we live in His shadow, day by day, step by step.
Dear Lord. We praise and thank You today. Only You have the words of eternal life, there to sustain us. Please lead and guide us through the minefields of life, hedging us around with Your love and protection. Amen.