But through it all, God preserves his people! Though the woman is chased into the wilderness, God has prepared a place for her and she is actually “nourished.” He gives her “eagle’s wings,” almost definitely a reference to the original exodus, when God rescued his suffering people from Egypt (see Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:11).

But God not only rescues and nourishes his people; he also puts a limit on their suffering, which is probably the point of the 1,260 days. I know some think this is a literal 3 ½ years of tribulation. Maybe, maybe not. But either way, don’t let that distract you from the main point. This number, whatever else it may mean, shows us that the suffering of the church is temporary, short, and limited.

3. Finally, this passage shows us how to communicate the gospel to our world. I don’t mean that we need to speak about a red dragon and a conquering child (though, that’s not a bad idea!). So, what do I mean?

Well, biblical scholars point out that John was using symbolism and imagery that was very well known in the ancient world. People were very familiar with pagan stories about the conflict between a dragon and a child. What seems strange to us was as embedded in their cultural folklore as the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk or Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are in ours. But John was investing this mythology with new meaning and significance.[1]

This is what C. S. Lewis meant when he talked about myth becoming fact. This is part of our job. We’ve got to learn how to take the mythologies and stories of our culture and show people that it is only in Jesus that we see the ultimate fulfillment of the deep hopes and yearnings that lurk beneath our greatest myths and stories.  Wesley, once again, got it right in one of his Advent hymns:  

Israel's strength and consolation,

hope of all the earth thou art;

dear desire of every nation,

joy of every longing heart.



[1] Grant Osborne says, “The purpose of this is evangelistic, to say that what the Greeks have known only as myth has now been actualized in history…What the pagans longed for in their myths has now become true in Jesus. Therefore, the form is both deliberate and brilliant, using what in our time has been called a ‘redemptive analogy’ to present the gospel in such a way as the capture the interest and hearts of the non-Christian reader.” Grant Osborne, Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002) p. 454.

 

 

Brian G. Hedges is the lead pastor for Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in Niles, Michigan. Brian has been married to Holly since 1996 and they have four children. He is the author of christ formed in you: the power of the gospel for personal change (Shepherd Press, 2010). And licensed to kill: a field manual for mortifying sin (Cruciform Press, 2011).

Brian blogs at light and heat. Follow him on Twitter @brianghedges