Sabbath School Lesson for February 16-22, 2019
Let’s make our study of God’s word as spiritually uplifting as we can this quarter…for ALL who join us on the journey. I wrote an article on this subject earlier and Ed Dickerson has now begun a series that I think will enrich our Sabbath School class experience. See it at Ed Dickerson’s article
The next few chapters, beginning with chapter 12, will prepare us for the final section of Revelation that concentrates on the Second Coming and God’s Kingdom. This week we will explore…
- the woman and the dragon (who these main characters symbolize)–on Sunday
- Satan being cast down to earth (when and why this happened)–on Monday
- the war this has created on our planet (how it has affected mankind)–on Tuesday
- persecution of the remnant (the meaning and significance of God’s remnant)–on Wednesday
- Satan’s last strategy to win the great controversy (his miraculous deception in the end times)–on Thursday
Revelation 12-14 sets the stage for later revelations about the final crisis by opening to us the story of redemption, which actually began with Lucifer’s fall from heaven. We begin to see the great controversy between Christ and Satan and the effect it has had on God’s people on earth, particularly those who will experience it in the last days, who are called His remnant.
Revelation 12 reveals the history of Israel as found in the Old and New Testaments. This chapter covers…
- the birth of Christ, with Israel represented by a woman (includes a flashback to Satan and his expulsion from heaven)–verses 1-4
- the effect of the cross on Satan’s ability to rule the earth (this victory has limited his powers over us)–verse 5, 7-11
- more of the history of God’s Christian church since the cross, especially its suffering during the Middle Ages–verses 6, 13-16
- a glimpse of the experience of the remnant church in the closing days of earth’s history–verse 17
Understanding all we can about the great controversy between Christ and Satan will help us withstand the final crushing days just before the Second Coming. Central to our survival will be the words of our verse this week…
Memory Text: ” ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.’ “ Revelation 12:11 NKJV
Sunday: The Woman and the Dragon
The first five verses of Revelation 12 are full of symbols, which John identifies in other portions of the book. The two main characters here, the woman and the dragon, are easily seen to be God’s faithful church (called “a chaste virgin” in 2 Corinthians 11:2) and Satan (“the accuser of the brethren” Revelation 12:9, 10).
The woman’s description of being clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and with the garland of twelve stars, leads us to other intriguing symbols.
- Some see the moon (a lesser light for this planet) as representing the Old Testament promises of a Messiah. Prophecies then pointed to Him, giving His followers just enough light to see their way, during the dark nights before the Savior’s first appearance on earth.
- The sun would represent Christ’s character, which shines brightly, guiding us to God’s perfect way (Malachi 4:2 even refers to the Sun of Righteousness, and Jesus called Himself as the “light of the world” in John 8:12). This light was seen to shine brightly on earth, as He dwelt among us. John 1:14 says He “became flesh…and we beheld His glory”. So, the New Testament brought us this greater light.
- The garland of twelve stars is not difficult to understand, with the number twelve used so often to refer to God’s chosen ones. These faithful saints are the crowning prize of victory and sign that Jesus has authority to rule His kingdom.
Another symbol that might be overlooked in this passage is the “tail” of the dragon (mentioned in verse 4). Most people don’t pause to realize its meaning. It’s thought to be the means that Satan uses to deceive. See Isaiah 9:14, 15. The prophet who teaches lies is said to be the “tail”. Revelation 9:10 mentions scorpions, with stings in their tails. The tail of some animals is used as a weapon. We can see that Satan has always used his deceptive lies as a weapon to win followers to his side.
Read Revelation 12:1 and Malachi 4:2. Why are both the sun and moon mentioned? How might they both represent Christ in the Old Testament and the New?
Read Revelation 12:3, 4, 9, Isaiah 14:12, and 1 Timothy 4:1. How do these verses prove that Satan does not work alone? Who supports and aids him in this great controversy?
Read Revelation 12:2, 4, and 5. How might pagan Rome be seen as an agent of Satan in this passage? What part did the Roman Empire play in the great controversy? How does this show that God and Satan both use nations and kingdoms on earth for their own purposes? What determines how and by whom they will be used?
Monday: Satan Cast Down to Earth
Revelation 12:7-9 speaks about a war in heaven, with Satan, formerly Lucifer, being cast out of heaven. Isaiah 14:12-15 reveals the motivations and reasons for this fall. Pride was the overpowering emotion that drove him to lie and deceive one third of the heavenly hosts, and continue his attacks against God’s beloved creatures here on earth.
Although weapons of war, familiar to us on earth, are used to describe the conflict, it is evident that the nature of the battle is spiritual. It’s a battle of words–Satan’s word against God’s. Whom will we believe and serve?
At the time of Job, before the Messiah came, Satan appears to have some access to the heavenly council. See Job 1:6-12.
But, since the cross, our understanding is that Satan has lost total access to heaven, and is restricted to our planet. 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 both say that Satan and his followers are held captive here, “to be reserved for judgment.” At Calvary, Satan’s true character was revealed to the universe. All sympathy for him was erased by the obvious hatred from Satan’s followers that led to that event.
At one time, Satan was called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), but since Christ, he has lost full ownership of our planet. Ephesians 6:12 mentions that our battle is against “the rulers of the darkness of this age.” The cross has given us full access to spiritual weapons that can help us overcome Satan’s attacks and attempts to deceive us.
He indeed has a “short time” yet to do his work, and we are warned that his activities at the end will be most powerful (Revelation 12:12).
Read Revelation 12:7 and Isaiah 14:12-14. How did this war in heaven start? Why is pride considered the original sin? How does it lead to breaking each of the ten commandments?
Read Revelation 12:8, Jude 6, and John 12:31. Who was cast out of heaven and when will they be cast out of this world?
Read Revelation 12:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:3. How is the whole world deceived through Satan? How does he still operate as a deceiver, as he did with Eve in the Garden?
Tuesday: The War on Earth
Verses 13 and 14 of chapter 12 remind us that the earth is currently the primary battlefield for this war. And Satan has chosen the church as his chief opponent in the spiritual war that rages. It is Satan himself who has persecuted God’s saints (represented as the woman), using the powers of Rome, both pagan and papal, as his agents for the task.
The church was driven underground (or “into the wilderness”) for a lengthy time period that is mentioned as “a time and times and half a time”, or 1,260 days/years (Revelation 12:6).
- a time (the Hebrew year is 360 days) = 360
- times (meaning two years) = 720
- half a time (meaning half a year) = 180
The total is 1,260 days or years, also referred to as 42 months in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. A Hebrew month consists of 30 days, and 30 times 42 equals 1,260.
Many Bible scholars identify this time of persecution as the medieval years of 538-1798 A.D., when the power of the papacy did all it could to extinguish God’s people, declaring them to be heretics.
Verses 15 and 16 talk about a flood causing the woman to almost perish. But the earth comes to her rescue by opening its mouth and swallowing the flood waters. This might allude to the role the Americas played in providing a safe haven for persecuted believers, fleeing from religious oppression in Europe.
Water is seen as represented highly populated areas. See Revelation 17:15. Therefore, the earth would mean a less populated land, like America was near the end of the 1,260 years.
Read Revelation 12:6, 13, 14 and 11:2. Explain how all three time periods equal the same number of prophetic years, and when this might have occurred.
Read Revelation 12:15 and 17:15. What do waters, or a flood, symbolize here?
Read Revelation 12:16. What would the earth represent, and what country might be seen as instrumental in saving God’s people from religious oppression and persecution at the end of the Middle Ages?
Wednesday: War Against the Remnant
Revelation 12:17 tells us that the dragon (Satan) went to make war with the “rest of her offspring”, known as God’s “remnant” people, who keep God’s commandments and testify for Jesus.
While the majority of those on earth listen and follow Satan’s lies, there are a few who conscientiously keep all the commandments, including the forgotten fourth commandment about worshiping our Creator.
As far as having the “testimony of Jesus”, we understand from the beginning of Revelation (ch. 1, v. 2) that His testimony is God’s truth about who He is, as delivered to and proclaimed by His devoted prophets. This revelation of truth and testimony about Jesus through the Holy Spirit will guide the church in its final hours.
John further explains the “testimony of Jesus” as being the “spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Prophecy has a distinct role to play in protecting God’s true church from becoming like Babylon–confused and lost.
Read Revelation 12:7 and 19:10. Why is prophecy so important for God’s remnant church in the last days?
Read Romans 11:2-5, 9:27, and Matthew 7:14. Why are there so few on God’s side, compared with Satan’s? Why is the gate so narrow that leads to God? Why are so few saved in the end? Is it God’s fault?
Read Revelation 14:7 and Deuteronomy 5:17. Why is Sabbath observance an important commandment for God’s remnant? How can the Sabbath reflect both worship of the Creator and our Redeemer? Why can’t Sunday worship, which recognizes the resurrection, take the place of the seventh-day Sabbath? What is the purpose of baptism (Colossians 2:12)?
Thursday: Satan’s End-Time Strategy
Satan’s chief strategy for all time has been to deceive. First the unfallen angels in heaven, then Adam and Eve in the Garden, and finally, God’s own followers, His church. This massive deception is especially at work as the judgment is near for him and the fallen hosts of angels who have supported him.
He accomplishes his work symbolically in these middle chapters of Revelation by three chief powers:
- the dragon (pagan Rome–including all those religious/secular/spiritualistic powers that belong to Satan)
- the sea beast (papal Rome–or Catholicism)
- the earth beast (apostate Protestantism–protected and nourished in the beginning by the lamblike, political powers of the Americas in the New World)
These false religious systems will not reign forever. Their destruction is guaranteed and judgment will be carried out after the thousand-year period (called the millennium). During this millennium, God’s saints are in heaven, helping vindicate God, and preparing the universe for Satan’s punishment and extinction. See Revelation 20:4.
Read Revelation 12:3-5, 9 and Matthew 2:16. Why are pagan/secular forces symbolized by a dragon, which is said to be Satan?
Read Revelation 12:6 and 13:1. What religious power fits the description of the beast coming out of the sea? How did Satan use this power in the Middle Ages, and what are some of her false teachings that continue to deceive many, even to the present day?
Read Revelation 13:11-17. What seems to point to this earth beast as having both religious and secular powers? In what way does it unite with the sea beast and the dragon, and how will this union affect its ability to deceive in the time of the end?
In order to be good soldiers in God’s army, we are given as much information as possible about the enemy we face on the battlefield every day of our earthly lives. Although it is never safe to dwell too long on his dastardly deeds and goals, we need to be armed with some knowledge of his strategy and the reason this great spiritual controversy rages in the first place.
These next few chapters in Revelation (ch. 12-14) are pivotal in arming us with the weapons needed to overcome Satan’s attacks. The more we see Satan for who he is, the more we see the contrast in who God is. Our chief function is to worship and serve the true ruler of the universe, and not this usurper and deceiver.
Please continue to memorize Psalm 91. It will give you confidence in God’s protection through the very last days, which we are now approaching.
Last week, we learned this…
“Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked.” verse 8 NKJV
This week, continue with…
“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;” verses 9, 10 NKJV
We will see Satan’s defeat. Justice will be served in the end; and our happy, endless future with our Lord will be secure.
Next Week’s Lesson: Satan and His Allies
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/