Rev. 12:6 – The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be fed there for 1,260 days. (HCSB)
The woman fled
Finally in this section we are told, “The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be fed there for 1,260 days” (v. 6). Keep in mind that the woman in this vision is Israel. So, we might ask: When does Israel flee? Where is the wilderness? What is the special place God prepares for her? And what is the meaning of 1,260 days?
As we noted earlier, some commentators see the woman as the Virgin Mary and conclude that this flight into the wilderness is her departure with Joseph and Jesus into Egypt after Herod’s decree to kill all infant males in and around Bethlehem. Others say the woman is the church on its pilgrim journey through the present age, nourished by God while living among a vast multitude of heathens. While these interpretations have some merit, they do not seem to fit the context as well as the understanding that the woman is Israel.
Rev. 11:13 – At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Take note: the third woe is coming quickly! (HCSB)
The survivors gave glory to the God of heaven
John writes that the “survivors” of the earthquake are “terrified” and give “glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13). His use of the word “survivors” implies the death of some – perhaps people, human institutions or world systems. Those still alive see the hand of God in these events and are shaken to the bone with fear. Fear of the Lord can be a good thing, starting us on a journey of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Or, it can move us further away from God, motivating us to hide from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Or, it can inspire awe, leading us to exclaim, “We have seen incredible things today” (Luke 5:26).
Commentators are divided as to whether the survivors’ fear in this passage drives them to repentance or merely elicits a response designed to appease an angry God. Elsewhere in Revelation, the wicked stubbornly refuse to turn to God despite the clear understanding that God is bringing His judgments to bear on the earth. After the sixth trumpet is sounded, “The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshipping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood … And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21). As the fourth bowl judgment is poured out, the wicked who are burned by fire “blasphemed the name of the God who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give God the glory” (Rev. 16:9). And as the fifth bowl judgment follows, plunging people into darkness, they “gnawed their tongues from pain and blasphemed the God of heaven … yet they did not repent of their actions” (Rev. 16:11).
I like to watch certain films again and again no matter how many times I have seen them. My list of honey-please-back-away-from-the-remote movies includes “Gladiator,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Outlaw Josie Wales,” and just about any 007 film.
Oh, and don’t forget the Mad Max trilogy starring Mel Gibson. One of my favorite scenes in the third film features Max squaring off against a brutal, masked bodyguard named Blaster in Thunderdome, a caged orb in which the only rule is: “Two men enter … one man leaves.” A fight to the death. Pass the popcorn.
Sometimes I think Christians favor the Thunderdome approach for determining proper interpretation of difficult Bible passages or theological issues. Let’s pit Calvinists against Arminians, young earthers vs. old earthers. premillennialists vs. amillennialists. Toss them into Thunderdome. Two men enter … one man leaves.
Rev. 11:7 – When they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, conquer them, and kill them. 8Their dead bodies will lie in the public square of the great city, which is called, prophetically, Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9And representatives from the people, tribes, languages, and nations will view their bodies for three and a half days and not permit their bodies to be put into a tomb. 10Those who live on the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who live on the earth. (HCSB)
The beast will conquer them and kill them
But the witnesses’ time is limited. John notes that when they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, conquer them, and kill them (v. 7). The two witnesses – these two lampstands and olive trees – do not speak the word of the Lord or perform miracles indefinitely. The Lord ordains a time for them to speak and a time to suffer.
It is always this way with God’s witnesses. They are sent for a time, and until that time is fulfilled, no one can shut their mouths or do them harm. Noah preaches for 120 years and God protects him from the wicked, who no doubt mock and threaten him. Elijah prophesies against Ahab and Jezebel, and they cannot silence him until they are dead and the Lord calls His prophet into heaven. Stephen preaches a profound message of judgment and hope, and not even the ambitious young Pharisee Saul can close his mouth until the last word is spoken.
Several years ago, El Arabiya TV asked President George W. Bush whether he was anti-Islam. He responded: “Well, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God.”
While the president’s comments no doubt were intended to soothe the minds of Muslim viewers, they had just the opposite effect on me. The god of Islam (Allah) and the God of the Bible (Yahweh) clearly are different. We can see this by asking three personal questions:
1. Does God know me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah is the transcendent creator. He knows who you are; in fact, he has fatalistically determined your thoughts, words and deeds – and even your eternal destiny, which is why Muslims so often say, “If Allah wills it.” So, Allah does indeed know you.
But Allah is neither knowable nor approachable. The Qur’an depicts him as a singular being with no “partners.” To call Jesus the Son of God is to commit shirk, the unpardonable sin. Of the 99 names for God in the Qur’an, none is intimate. Allah reveals his will, not himself.
Yahweh also is depicted as the transcendent Creator. He knows us; but more than that, He is knowable and approachable. He created us in His image – with personality, thought, and will – for the purpose of enjoying an everlasting, intimate relationship with Him. He exists as a Trinity in eternal relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In fact, God is so knowable, He came in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. As the apostle John writes, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Does God know me? Allah and Yahweh are depicted as supreme beings that know everything and everyone. But … only the God of the Bible is truly personal and knowable.
2. Does God love me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah loves those he chooses to love and hates those he chooses to hate. “Allah loves not those that do wrong,” says the Qur’an (Surah 3:140), neither does he love “him who is treacherous, sinful” (Surah 4:107). “Those who reject faith and do wrong – Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any way – Except the way of Hell, to dwell therein for ever. And this to Allah is easy” (4:168-169). Other types of people Allah hates include the arrogant and vainglorious (4:36; 16:23; 31:18; 57:23); those given to excess (5:87); and the ungrateful (22:38).
Yahweh, on the other hand, loves all people (John 3:16). He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). John writes, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 John 4:10). Even though God hates sin, He loves sinners and takes no pleasure in punishing them (Eze. 18:23).
Does God love me? Only the God of the Bible loves all people.
3. Did God die for me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah did not and would not die for you, nor would he send anyone to die for you. In fact, Islam claims that Jesus did not die on the cross but was taken up into heaven, and Judas, or someone who looked like Judas, was crucified in His place.
Further, the Qur’an states that there is no need for Allah to provide a sacrifice for sin because ignorance of Islam, not sin, is man’s problem. (The possible exceptions are apostasy from Islam and refusal to convert to Islam.) Staying away from major sins (whatever those are) will automatically result in one’s “small” sins being overlooked by Allah (4:31).
Yahweh, on the other hand, loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us. This was determined in eternity past; Jesus is declared to be the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ not only died for us; He rose from the dead, conquering sin and death. And He offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace through faith in Him.
Did God die for us? Only the God of the Bible sent His Son to die for us, securing eternal life for those who trust in Him.
So, are Allah and Yahweh just two different names for the same God?
- Allah is distant and unknowable. The God of the Bible is close and personal.
- Allah does not love every person. Yahweh does.
- Allah did not and would not die for you, nor would he send anyone to do so. But the God of the Bible loves you so much He sent His one and only Son to die for you. And He stands ready to grant you everlasting life if you will receive Him by faith.
This column appeared July 21, 2012, in The Pathway of the Missouri Baptist Convention.