Then, in verses 7-12, before going on to further describe the church during her wilderness period, John loops back to the original “war” between good and evil that “broke out in heaven” between “Michael and His angels” on the one side and “the dragon and his angels” on the other. The most crucial point to notice is that John ingeniously merges that initial battle in heaven with the battle between Christ and Satan at the cross, which calls our attention to the fact that the life and death of Jesus defeated the devil. To discover this connection, read and discuss the following biblical passages:
Revelation 12:7-12, John 12:31-32, and Colossians 2:15.
John’s vision then returns in verses 13-16 to the church in its wilderness period. Having been defeated by Christ at Calvary, Satan “persecuted the woman.” Again, history unmistakably reveals that the human agency through which Satan made war on the followers of Christ was none other than the Roman Church, which had become the political heir to the crumbling pagan Roman Empire. But goes on to inform us that the followers of Jesus were to be “nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” Back in verse 6 John said that God had taken the woman into the wilderness so that He might “feed her there.” The nourishing and feeding of the woman in the wilderness indicates that God would keep His true church alive with the pure gospel during the long Dark Ages of papal persecution. In fulfillment of this prophecy, the history books tell us of multiple wilderness communities that preserved the pure apostolic faith: the Waldenses, the Huguenots, the Albigenses, and many other groups of believers who, generation after generation, preserved the Bible and educated their children with the nourishing truths of the gospel.
This prophecy is extremely enlightening because it informs us, to our great relief, that the massive professed Christian system of Roman Catholicism that so long ruled large segments of the world with coercion and cruelty, was not, in fact, genuine Christianity. Rather, it was a counterfeit system operating by principles that made it the enemy of Christ and His true followers. Once we realize that true, apostolic Christianity went underground during the Dark Ages—into “the wilderness”—it becomes evident that all those bloody persecutions, inquisitions, and crusades that were perpetrated upon humanity in the name of Christ by the Roman Church only served to misrepresent Christ rather than make Him known as He truly is.
The Remnant of Her Offspring
In the last verse of Revelation 12 John directs our attention to the end-time continuation of the apostolic faith. For this verse, use the old King James Version to catch the significance of the idea:
“And the dragon was _________ with the woman, and went to make war with the _____________ of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17, KJV).
The word “remnant” simply means a remaining quantity or piece of something. The idea of a remnant is drawn from the Old Testament, in which it referred to a representative group of Israel who would be preserved during a period of war and captivity and then reemerge faithful to God (Isaiah 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 37:31-32; Jeremiah 23:3). Similarly, “the remnant” of Revelation 12:17 is composed of those who emerged after the 1260-year period of papal persecution to continue on with the preserved apostolic gospel. John tells us that the “remnant” will be clearly identifiable because they will be a body of believers who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Again, history bears out the fulfillment of the prophecy. By the end of the 18th century, papal dominance was at an end due to the combined impact of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and the American Revolution. People were free at last to think for themselves and to publicly proclaim their faith. According to the prophecy, this is the period in which we are to look for a remnant people who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” And that’s exactly what we do find.
By the first half of the 19th century the Protestant Reformation had fragmented into numerous denominations, each with their special points of recovered truth and each with retained doctrinal errors inherited from the papacy. At this time, a new movement arose on the scene of history that began to gather up the various truths recovered by the different branches of Protestantism and to synthesize all of them into a single theological system. The Advent Movement was composed of believers from various denominations. Baptists, Seventh-day Baptists, Methodists, to name a few, came together and studied the Scriptures. As a result, a chain of biblical truth was reassembled, link by link, with the potential to magnify the character of God before the world with restored apostolic clarity. “The remnant” of the woman’s offspring was reemerging from the wilderness. In our next study we will continue exploring the identity and mission of the remnant.