The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 92

Return to the Wilderness

Revelation 12:13.     And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

     No longer able to combat his enemies in heaven, either human or angelic, Satan will seek to vent his wrath on Israel.  It is he, no doubt, who constrains the beast to break the covenant with Israel and to insist that men worship the beast’s own image, and it will be Satan who will instruct his man of sin to seek to destroy the Jews when they refuse.

     The Jewish people have been persecuted longer than any other nation in history, and this last persecution will have the purpose of their complete and final destruction.  God, however, will once again intervene on their behalf, and they will be protected there in their place in the wilderness.  Furthermore, God will use this time for intensive instruction and reconciliation with His ancient people, preparing them to receive the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and Savior when He comes to the earth again at the end of their three-and-a-half year exile: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. . . .  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness and in mercies. . . . and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:14-23).

Revelation 12:14.     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.

     The urgency of the woman’s flight is reiterated here.  In order to escape the wrath of the beast, she required special help, “two wings of a great eagle.”  The meaning of this figure is not clear except that it implies miraculous help.  There is probably an allusion to Exodus 19:4.  “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.”  In this case, the figure certainly refers to the many miracles by which the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt.  Thus the “eagle” symbol is appropriate for the angelic ministers who undoubtedly were involved in these miracles.  Likewise here, the fleeing woman will be aided by miraculous protection afforded by an angelic eagle.

     Once she reaches her place prepared by God, she will be “nourished” (same word as “feed” in verse 6), and this no doubt will also require miraculous provision.  The duration (“time and times and half a time”) is clearly the same period as the 1,260 days of verse 6.  Thus a “time” in prophecy means a year.  The use of this unusual terminology here is probably for the purpose of tying it in to Daniel 7:25 and 12:7, where the same terminology appears, also referring to the second half of the tribulation.

     The Jewish remnant symbolized by the woman is kept secure in a definite place prepared for them by God.  Whether this place is Petra, as some think, is not all certain, since it is not specifically named.  However, it is known to the serpent (and, therefore, to the beast), as the woman is nourished in the very “face of the serpent.”  Try as he will Satan is unable to reach and destroy the woman in the wilderness.

Revelation 12:15.     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.

     Not able to reach the woman directly, the serpent resorts to long-range artillery, as it were, shooting forth a “river” from his mouth with which to flood her out of her haven.  Again, the symbol is somewhat ambiguous.  It can hardly be a literal river, since it comes from the symbolic “mouth” of the symbolic “serpent.”

     The most probable meaning of the sign is that of an overwhelming army dispatched by the beast, as instigated by the serpent.   This would be the obvious reaction of the irate dictator when the Jews suddenly flee Jerusalem, and such a meaning is also consistent with the use of the same figure of speech in the Old Testament.  For example, when the Egyptian armies came against Babylon, Jeremiah said: “Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof” (Jeremiah 46:8).  Note also Jeremiah 47:2 and Daniel 11:26.

     Whatever the meaning of the figure, Satan will mount what would seem to be an invincible attack against the godly remnant of Israel in their desert stronghold.  But God is equal to the need.  “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).  “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say . . . Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; Then the proud waters had gone over our soul, Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us a prey to their teeth” (Psalm 124:1-6).

Revelation 12:16.     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.

     With all his wrath and all his cleverness and all his power, the old dragon cannot reach one who is under God’s protection, for “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  The overflowing horde of men and weapons sent after the Jews in the wilderness by the beast (if that, indeed, is what the river from the serpent’s mouth depicts), though infinitely superior to the unarmed refugees in might, is utterly unable to conquer them or even to reach them.  A great chasm will open in the earth, already trembling and unstable from the worldwide earth movements of the tribulation period, and swallow them up.

     Such a terrestrial miracle is quite appropriate in the context.  The whole situation is analogous to the pursuit of the children of Israel by Pharaoh at the time of Exodus. When the Egyptian armies were drowned in the Red Sea, Miriam sang of the deliverance in these words: “Thou stretchest out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them” (Exodus 15:12). Not long afterward, a dangerous rebellion was thwarted thus, “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up . . . and the earth closed upon them” (Numbers 16:32, 33).

     Whatever the exact fulfillment of this prophecy may entail, it is calamitous and devastating to the purposes of the beast and the dragon.  By the same token, their miraculous deliverance and sustenance will be traumatically persuasive to the Jewish men and women, trembling in their place of refuge.

     “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: . . . And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.  Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God.  And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant” (Ezekiel 20:33-37).

     As the forty years in the wilderness prepared the people of Israel in olden times to enter the land of Canaan, so these three-and-a-half years in the wilderness will make them ready to receive Christ and enter the glorious kingdom age of the millennium.

     But, although this Jewish remnant is to be the nucleus of the millennial kingdom of Israel, there are many other believers (or potential believers) still scattered around in all the nations of the world.  These are also of concern both to the dragon and to the Lord.

Revelation 12:17.     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.

     When the dragon cannot reach the woman herself (and certainly he can no longer touch the true seed, Jesus Christ), he will direct his full wrath against “the remnant of her seed.”  Thus, his age-long vendetta against “the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15) will continue right to the very end of the age and his final incarceration in the lake of fire.

     When the Jews flee Jerusalem into the wilderness at the midpoint of the tribulation, there will undoubtedly be many who remain behind.  Some will prefer compromise, some

will be unaware of the danger or ignorant of the Scriptures, and some will simply be unable to flee for one reason or another.  In any case, there will be considerable numbers of Israelis who will continue to live in Jerusalem and  other parts of Israel; and these also are referred to in a number of biblical prophecies.  Furthermore, there will still be many Israelites in other nations, and these too are included in the prophecies.  All of these will undergo severe persecution at the end-times, by virtue of being Jews, and for refusing the mark of the beast.

     It is remarkable that such a small and apparently insignificant nation as Israel could be the focus of so much attention and concern from all the great nations of the world.  It is equally remarkable that the Israelites who have been scattered around the nations of the world for thousands of years still retain their national identity and still feel that the land of Israel is their home land.

     Even today world attention is focused on Israel, as well as on world Jewry.  In the imminent prophetic future, as already discussed (Chapter 6) is the invasion of Israel by Russia, followed by the catastrophic defeat of Russian and the resulting rise of the western alliance (NATO and the Common Market) into a state of world preeminence.  Even then, attention will still center on Israel, and a prominent leader of this alliance (soon identified also as the beast, the man of sin, the Antichrist, the final world dictator before the triumph of Christ) will make his seven-year treaty with Israel, then break it at its midpoint.  Many Jews will have returned to Israel in the first three-and-a-half years, but many will still be scattered.  And wherever they are, the beast will seek to persecute them, and God will thereby chastise them, in hopes they can be delivered from their unbelief and finally brought to acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and Savior.

     Many Scriptures deal with their great tribulation and final restoration.  For example, Jeremiah says: “For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. . . . Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. . . . For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:3-11).

     Note also many other Scriptures to this effect (Leviticus 26:40-45; Deuteronomy 30:1-5; Isaiah 11:10-16; 27:6-13; Jeremiah 23:3-8; 31:7-11; 32:37-41; Ezekiel 34:11-16; 36:22-28; and Daniel 12:1).  In fact, great portions of the books of the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, deal with the sufferings and promised blessings of the scattered remnants of Israel during the tribulation period.

     Apparently there will also be many Gentiles in the nations of the world who will become believers during this period.  Revelation 7:9-14 speaks of a great multitude from all nations who come out of the great tribulation and will then be martyred during its second half.  Some will survive, however, and will constitute the remnant who will populate the millennial world when Christ returns.

     All of these, also, are included among the seed of the woman, with whom the dragon will engage in mortal combat during the last three-and-a-half years – the great tribulation.  It is these who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  The old serpent – as well as the beast, the serpent’s seed, and all his other multitudes of demonic followers and human spiritual progeny – hate these people with diabolic passion, making war on them in unremitting intensity and ferocity.

     But despite all such persecutions, they love not their lives unto death, maintaining “the testimony of Jesus Christ” and seeking to “keep the commandments of God.”  Some modern Christians, who carry dispensational distinctions to an extreme, would suggest that keeping God’s commandments somehow mitigates against a testimony for Christ and salvation by grace, but these tribulation saints certainly find the two compatible, even in the most difficult circumstances that godly men and women will ever have to endure.

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