with Bob Condly

An Apocalyptic Advent

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Throughout December, church services and Christmas cards repeat a few traditional passages. The first two chapters of Matthew and Luke are the most popular.

Here are some other familiar verses:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2

These are staples of the season.

But I’ve searched for references to Christ’s birthday in other books of the Bible. You could call last week’s post, “Christmas According to Ecclesiastes.”

This week, I’d like to try the book of Revelation.

The last book of the Bible is chock full of persecutions, judgments, and the end of the world. Even though it emphasizes the second coming of Christ, the first coming does get some mention, too.

Let’s read.

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her Child the moment He was born. 5She gave birth to a Son, a male Child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.’ And her Child was snatched up to God and to His throne. 6The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.” – Revelation 12:1-6

Three characters stand out: a woman, her Child, and a dragon. Who are they? Let’s treat them in reverse order.

The author of Revelation, John the apostle, identifies the dragon as the devil.

“The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” – Revelation 12:9

“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” – Revelation 20:2

The devil wants to destroy the Child. Is that Jesus? Yes, indeed! Verse 5 quotes Psalm 2:9 which heralds the rule of the Messiah. The psalmist describes Him as the “Anointed” (vs. 2) and the Son (vss. 7, 12). That’s Jesus!

“‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” – Matthew 16:15-16

If Jesus is the Child, can we assume that the woman is Mary? It would seem so; after all, she did give birth to Him.

But we can take this figure in a broader sense, too; the woman represents Israel. For centuries, every Jewish girl wished to be the mother of the Messiah. God chose Mary for that honor, but Christ belongs not to her alone, but to the whole nation.

Paul brings together the specific and the general in his comment about Jesus’ birth:

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” – Galatians 4:4

So John’s portrayal of Christmas features a woman (Mary or Israel), her Son (Jesus Christ), and a dragon (Satan).

What does this tell us about the holiday?

Cosmic

John sets Christmas not in a serene, pastoral setting, but rather in the context of a heavenly battle. He pulls back the curtain to show us the spiritual realities at work in the midst of earthly trials.

We can trace the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and we can research what the town looked like back then. This has value, but Christmas isn’t limited to a single time and place. The birth of Christ is bigger; it has spiritual impact that reverberates throughout the heavens.

How has Christ shaken up your world?

Conflict

The enemy doesn’t concede the birth of Christ; evil retaliates. Revelation 12:7-17 describes the wars the devil wages on God’s angels and on His people.

Many complain about tensions, arguments, and clashes that take place around the holiday. People point a finger at others, but fail to see that the devil is seeking to destroy them anyway he can.

What battles have you faced during Christmas? How has the devil attempted to hollow out the life of Christ within you?

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The next chapter recounts the rise of the beast, otherwise known as the antichrist. When the devil tries but fails to kill the holy Infant, he decides to substitute his own version of a “son” for God’s Son. And as the beast draws the world to himself, he persecutes followers of Jesus who resist him (13:7).

What alternative for Jesus has the world offered you? What surrogates seek to crowd Him out of your celebrations of the holiday?

At the first Christmas, more is going on than we see. A Baby is born in a humble village, but war rages in the heavenlies.

And so it remains to this day. Ask God to show you what’s taking place in the realm of the spirit. Deal with what’s going on around you, but don’t neglect the spiritual. Be alert!

And have a merry Christmas!

 

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By Bob Condly
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