What does it say?
John sees a vision of woman that gives birth to a child, is attacked by Devil and involved in a cosmic struggle that ends with the ultimate defeat of the Devil (Rev 12). A beast (living creature) appears from the sea that is a composite of the creatures representing Gentile world powers that Daniel saw, and a second beast from the earth that speaks with Satan’s voice and represents state-controlled religion (Rev 13). Most call these two beasts the Antichrist and the False Prophet respectively. In stark contrast, genuine believers from all backgrounds stand with the Lamb in great celebration and worship before the final harvest of earth (Rev 14).
Seven angels appear out of heaven’s temple with seven bowls of the plagues of God’s wrath and singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (Rev 15). The bowls of wrath are poured out upon the evil of the world and lead to the final military campaign before the end that is centered on a place called Armageddon (Rev 16).
What does it mean?
John writes during a time of increasing persecution, and chapter 12 is an encouragement to believers expecting the end at any moment. The woman represents Israel and the church born out of her. Both are attacked by the Devil, but his ultimate demise is certain. John’s first century readers would identify the two beasts of chapter 13 as the Caesar and Roman emperor worship, but every age has its own villains that all foreshadow the final end time and Antichrist.
Chapter 14 is another glorious glimpse of what is to come and God’s protection of his people. Many see the 144,000 as Jewish believers in the tribulation to come. Don’t take the use of the word “virgin” as literal, but rather pointing to their spiritual purity and refusal to bow to Antichrist. Nothing in the Bible teaches that sex in marriage is in itself defiling or that celibacy is more spiritual than marriage. The songs of Revelation 15 contrast with the agonies of judgment on earth and the joy that fills the lives of God’s servants.
How will I respond?
Consistent here is the contrast between the misery and agony of judgment and the joy and worship that characterizes believers. What more consistently characterizes my life, misery or worship and joy? What step can I take to find greater worship and joy in whatever tempts me to be miserable at this time?