THE VISION OF THE CHURCH, PART 3
Rev 12:13-17 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. 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, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The one thousand, two hundred, and sixty year persecution of the church of Christ continues to be foretold as John receives this heavenly vision of things that were to come to pass. The fact that it is mentioned again and again in the past few chapters of this book assures us of its historic importance, its affect upon the growth of the church, and of the ability of faithful Christians to overcome all trials and tribulations that Satan and his followers devise and inflict upon Christ's church, and His gospel message of eternal salvation. Because the battle with Satan and his followers has been won by our Savior and His Christian followers, there was a joyful noise made both in heaven among God's hosts, and on earth among all brothers and sisters in Christ (See previous verses 10-12a). Although Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven (Vs. 9), he was cast upon the earth with the ability to roam the world, both on land and sea, and continue to deceive all that refused to follow the will of God for the remaining years of the 1,260 year persecution. Therefore, John writes: Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Vs. 12b).
Being reminded of these things previously discussed, John continues recording his vision by telling us that when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. Confined for a period of time to roam only the earth, Satan and his followers turned to wrathfully tormenting the faithful men and women that made up the church of Christ, which was symbolically represented by this "woman." It is well documented by bible scholars that Satan used every person, place, or thing to dissuade people of the world to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and to faithfully follow His New Testament doctrine. He used the paganistic society to tempt followers of Christ to reject His leadership and turn to the sinful pleasures of world. And he used the apostate religion of Catholicism, as led by their self-righteous, egotistical papacy, to mislead followers of Christ to reject the true wisdom of His gospel, and to turn and accept their corrupt doctrine, which they created with erring human wisdom.
Compassionately, God gave the church of Christ (the woman) the ability to flee from the presence of most Satan-inspired people of the world. He symbolically gave Christians wings of a great eagle that enabled them to secrete themselves - fly into the wilderness. Their, in a place of secluded refuge, the church was freed from the more tormenting, unbearable wiles of the serpent known as Satan for a time, and times, and half a time (two and a half years, forty-two months, or 1260 days, which symbolically represents 1260 years). Verse 15 tells us that the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. Although we are not to take this imagery in a literal sense, its meaning seems rather clear. Christ's church, being hidden from his presence, Satan could not persecute its faithful followers. Therefore he attempted to cover and seal the doctrine of Christ with a deluge of water, meaning anti-Christian teachings, in order to eliminate the influence of God's Son on the remaining world's population. Satan's passion was to destroy Christianity. It is his same passion today. Satan will try every devious plan conceivable to mankind in order to destroy the church of Christ.
Again the divine providence of God intervened - the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. Satan's vile attempts to destroy Christ Jesus, and His doctrine of salvation, were once again thwarted by the valiant, unwavering stand of faithful Christians. The persecution of members of the Christ's church, as well as the anti-Christian teachings of apostate religious orders, were prevented from being carried out in their desire to eliminate the true New Testament doctrine of Christ. One can only attribute this divine intervention against the extreme persecution of the body of Christ, which was brought on by civil authorities and Roman Catholicism, to our Heavenly Father. God's Word was hindered during this period of history but not destroyed; it was bent but not broken; its light was made dim but still a glimmer of hope remained.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Satan does not give up. With each defeat he becomes wrathful, incensed, and returns with intense determination to defeat his enemy, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He has waged continual warfare against God and His righteousness from the beginning of time, throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus. And today, Satan remains the enemy of Christianity, seeking to destroy the souls of all mankind. It was true that for many years the true church of Christ was thought by many historians to have completely disappeared from earth, due to the extreme persecution it suffered at the evil hands of both Pagan and Papal leaders of Rome. Yet secluded in a remote wilderness, and divinely fed by the power of God, Christ's church survived in the faithful hearts of persecuted saints. With the coming of the religious Reformation in 1793, the prophetic 1,260 years of persecution ceased - the dark ages of religion ended, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the body of Christ, His church, once again became a visible religious entity. It had survived the evil trials and tribulations of Satan and was now able to spread the glad tidings of salvation through Christ Jesus to all the known world.