Our passage today starts with these dramatic words: " And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child." Before we consider this section, allow me to briefly summarise what we had discovered last week.
We noted that there was "war in heaven…" (v.7). This spiritual warfare is not only global, it is cosmic. We saw that the heavenly armies under the leadership of the angel Michael had defeated the demonic armies of Satan (v.8). From that moment on “Satan was thrown down to the earth” (vv. 9,10,13).
Verse 10 is a key verse, for it tells us of the ultimate reason as to why Satan is thrown down: “…the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come…”. With Christ’s birth, presence, teaching , death, resurrection, and ascension the devil has been thrown out of the heavenly courts, where He had formerly appeared before God with the angels (see Job 1& 2 ) and he is thrown down to the earth. Now this sounds like bad news for us, who live on the earth , and to some degree it is , but we must take note also that
Christ’s first coming is also the beginning of the kingdom come on earth. The most notable sign of His kingdom was the casting out of demons. However, it was on the cross that Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them …” (Col 2:15).
So in summary , Satan is now excluded from heaven and thrown down to the earth. On the earth he is now a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) but he is progressively downsized and doomed , and on the road to hell. And,, instead of overcoming those that he was constantly accusing (that is , the OT saints for whom the atoning blood of Christ had not yet become a reality) he is now overcome by them “who have conquered them by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony “ (v.11).
Having failed to destroy the O.T. church, and having failed to destroy the spiritual seed - the Lord Jesus Christ (12:5), he now continues his fury against the woman - the church.
This is all of tremendous importance to us, for it explains history and the future of all things to us. It also gives us understanding concerning that which is happening right now in our world. It helps us to understand why the true church in this present world hardly ever seems to experience real, lasting peace - even though in the midst of it all, true Christians do know that peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7). All this is explained here.
And so we take note of the following:
1. The devil cast out of heaven, and crushed by the cross is now in his last days as he pursues the church that had metaphorically given birth to the male child, who is Jesus Christ - the Son of God.
2. The church is enabled to escape the fury of the devil: “ But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. (v.14)
a. She is metaphorically helped to escape by the wings of an eagle.
b. She is sheltered in a prepared place in the desert where she is taken care of for "a time, times and half a time", which is the same period as the 1260 days in 12:5 and the 42 months in 11:2.
c. Whilst she is protected there and nourished there , this does not mean that she does not experience the attacks of the devil in that desert. Vv. 15 - 17 shows that she is safe there, but not exempt from his presence and from his attacks. We must now consider this in some more detail.
1. Satan pursues the Church:
" And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child." …  The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.
Having been thrown down, Satan is now focused on the church – the people whom our Lord Jesus Christ died for. That sounds very disturbing ! Remember that this revelation of Jesus Christ was given to John on the island of Patmos (Rev.1:9) for the comfort of the church in these last days. We need to read, hear and understand this. It is intended to fill us with courage and hope (Rev 1:3) , for although the church shall suffer through all this , the church shall also be kept through this time. Jesus promised that He would keep His church (Matt 16:18).
But right now, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 Jn. 5: 19). Jesus Himself calls the devil, " the prince of this world" (Jn.12:31; ; 16:11), and for this reason the Lord Jesus warns His disciples, "in this world you will have trouble", whilst at the same time encouraging them : "Take heart. I have overcome the world." (Jn. 16:33)
Now the question: How does Satan presently control the world? How does he pursue the church? Since Satan is a spirit , he works spiritually . The way in which he exercises his fury is by instigating evil men and women – which John calls “ the world” - against the church. He uses world systems to do this. He uses decadent, materially affluent western culture to subvert the church. He uses anti- Christian religious systems such as Islam or Hinduism to suppress the church. He has used Marxism – Communism in Russia and China to kill many Christians and to forbid churches to meet. He uses all the so-called Christian cults such as Mormonism , Jehovah’s Witnesses, the present “ Word of Faith Movement” etc. to confuse people in this world concerning the true nature of Christ who alone is the Saviour of those who believe. Paul says : “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan hates the church and he makes the world hate the church. Jesus reminds His disciples in Jn. 15:18, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…"
All this is very important to understand. Here is the ultimate reason as to why the true church, wherever you find her in this world, has such a hard time - whether by persecution (i.e. by killing or imprisoning Christians) or by deception … e.g. by tempting Christians to compromise the truth ; by keeping the truth hazy in their minds; by causing Christians not to think - and thus not to pray ; by making Christians think that Satan doesn’t exist ; by making evil an abstract, indefinable matter; by causing unspiritual squabbles and foolish controversies to erupt in the church - which make the church look like any other secular organisation in this world; by keeping Church leaders weak and worldly; by encouraging prayerlessness - by making people believe that prayer is not that important to our work; by lack of discipline, and by allowing sin to go unchecked in the church; by allowing truth and doctrine to become so unimportant, that it doesn't matter anymore in the end what you believe, as long as you believe it sincerely etc.
I stress the latter point concerning deception so much because this is the primary tool which the devil uses here, in our country and in our churches.
2. The Church remains victorious in the midst of her struggle
We have made this point already, but it is worth emphasising this point again. Although the church is persecuted and subjected to deception, she is not at the mercy of Satan! She is always kept by the Grace of God. All this is in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture , and the particular teaching of our Lord : "I will build my church , and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). And our Lord has reminded His disciples on at least 2 occasions through the apostle John that "the prince of this world now stands condemned". (Jn 12:31; 16:11) . The Satan who has failed to destroy the O.T. seed , and the Lord Jesus Christ at his birth and on the cross , will also ultimately fail to destroy the NT church.
3. How will Jesus preserve His church through this time?
a. He helps her by making a way of escape : “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.(v.14). We have seen this before! This is what God did for the Israelites when He helped them to escape from Egypt: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself." (Ex 19:4 see also Isa 40:31 : "Those whose hope is in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles…")
b. He helps her by creating for her a safe place in the desert. Once again we note the similarity between the Exodus and the Revelation. Just as God delivered His people from the Egyptian powers, by making a way of escape for her through the wilderness, so now also He delivers His NT people from the fury of Satan in these last days. Christians are kept by the pure grace of God in this spiritual wilderness. The true church is the demonstration of the kingdom of God, and she is intended to be a safe place for the believer as they live in a spiritual wasteland. This does not mean that she is unassailable. Please note that the church is only a safe place as long as she maintains the marks and disciplines of a biblical church. She is safe - but she is not immune, just as a walled city is a safe place - but by no means unassailable! History is full of examples to prove that. The city, despite its impregnable walls must be guarded. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion: "Watch and pray , that you may not fall into temptation".
The devil is never at rest . " The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. This is all symbolical language - the dragon, the woman… the spewing of the water. But the principle is clear. The evil one wants to flush the church out from her place of safety. As soon as she passes the boundaries of her safety (hidden with God in Christ) he can devour her. The strategies that he employs, we have seen, are many – and either through subversion or extinction.
However , in this this situation , the Lord God helps His people:  But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. God has used the earth to provide help of escape. He provided a path of escape via the Red sea and the Jordan. And so it has been with the church in history . The earth has often provided a refuge for Christians simply by way of national boundaries . e.g. Baptists who were persecuted in 16th /17th century England found a refuge in Holland and in America. Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 , the Christians were advised to flee to the mountains (Matt 24:16).
The War spreads into the whole World
Initially the conflict was located in Jerusalem and Judea , but as the church spread throughout the whole world , so Satan followed suit :  Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. We will consider this in more detail as we come to chapter 13
1. The church is living in intense days, in which Satan has been cast down to the earth .
2. We are engaged in a spiritual war ( cf. Eph. 6: 10 -18) in which the church has no natural defense against Satan. We stand by the grace and in the Name of our God alone. He is the Provider of our spiritual armour and we do well to study and use this armour.
3. Humanly speaking our safety depends on abiding in ( Christ) the vine (John 15). We need to obey His commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus (12:11).