Revelation is an apocalyptic-prophecy-epistle. Its rich imagery is meant to paint a picture. Let’s do a quick review of the key symbols of the first few chapters.
The seven letters describe the conflict Christians face as coming from both inside and outside the church. The scroll that appears signifies the earth’s title deed. Horses describe the various ways persecution may arise. Trumpets intensify the conflict as vicious demonic forces torment the perpetrators of persecution. Through it all, God’s people are sealed, that is, they will persevere by God’s grace. When we get to Revelation 12, the vision rewinds to present Christmas as the start of a cosmic “war.”
“Go and search diligently for the child,” Herod told the wise men, “And when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may worship him” (Matt 2:8). Herod was lying. He had no intention of worshipping the child. He was simply carrying out the dragon’s revolting plan to target one baby for assassination while leaving little peasant boys in Bethlehem as collateral damage (Matt 2:16). But Herod failed and so did the dragon.
“The woman fled to the wilderness” after “her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Rev 12:6). Representing the community of faith after Christ’s ascension, the woman flees to a place prepared by God for her protection and nourishment (12:6). The length of her stay harkens back to the period of history when God protects the Church’s witness against the dragon’s onslaughts (cf. 11:2-3). Throughout the Bible, “forty-two months” or “three and a half years” or “1290 days” or “times, time, and half a time” accentuate a time limit on intensified hardship (e.g., Dan 7:25; 12:7, 11; Luke 4:25; Ja 5:17; 1 Kings 17-18).
That “the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness” confirms God’s providential care (Rev 12:14; cf. Ex 19:4). In a hostile world, “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:31). “The church needs to know that its present struggles and sufferings are not a sign that God has gone to sleep on the job. They are the sign that a great, cosmic drama is being staged, in which they are being given a vital though terrible role to play” (NT Wright).
“Be not deceived, Wormwood,” says Screwtape, “our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” (CS Lewis).
Satan is not only a deceiver; he’s delusional and perverted. Just look at his work. It is crazymaking. The old dragon must reach for total control and try to silence God’s people because he must stand in constant denial of the reality of his decisive defeat that is constantly intruding to refute his delusions.
That is why Satan hates us. Our lives remind him of what Christ has done. When God of peace “crushes” Satan, he will do so under our beautiful feet (Rom 16:20; cf. Rom 10:15; Is 52:7).