Crumbs from the Lord's Table

4. Revelation 12 - Church in the wilderness - not an invisible church

Sola Scriptura or Bible alone revisited
Sola Fide or Faith alone revisited
The One Church built by Christ
Peter the Rock / Stone misconception revisited
What the Bible says of Jesus' Only Church
1. Church is the Pillar of Truth, Manifold of Wisdom
2. A Church Witnessing unto all nations, so undoubtedly one Visible to all
3. One Single Visible Church in succession till His return
4. Revelation 12 - Church in the wilderness - not an invisible church
5. No separate invisible on earth ; One General Assembly: Visible on Earth with invisible in Heaven
6. An Imperfect Kingdom with Good & Bad Co-existing
7. The Vineyard appointed to new imperfect servants with successive authority till His return
Church Fathers say their church is Catholic
What the founder of Sola Scriptura & Sola Fide said of the Catholic Church
Did Luther or any other have the authority from the Lord or His Church
Who then is the Whore of Babylon?
The Catechism of the Catholic church on the separated communities and their Salvation
The various Christian denominations and their evolution
Catholic Apologetics Links

Anti Catholic propaganda claims that the true church was taken over by the Beast , and that this Catholic church is this ‘Beast’ portrayed in Rev 13, to whom the dragon or satan gives his power. (Some say this happened in the 4th century through emperor Constantine who decreed the freedom of Christians from the severe persecutions of the Roman empire since the inception of Christianity,  while others say this taking over by the devil happened in the 7th century. They themselves are not sure as to when). This claim of course contradicts the Lord’s words as to His presence ‘always’ and ‘till the end’ with the church, that His Holy Spirit is with the church ‘forever’ and will guide the church into all truth, that no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder it unless he tie up the strong man,  and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church. They say that the church that was taken over by satan came to be called the Catholic church, while the true church was taken into hiding or invisibility which they say is what the Bible terms ‘taken into the wilderness’, and that a small group of true believers existed alongside the church corrupted by satan. A church invisible whose members themselves did not know if they belonged to it, only God knew. This they say is what is mentioned as the ‘church in the wilderness’ portrayed in Revelation chapter 12. This for a period from the 4th century to the 16th century reformation. This invisible church ‘fled to the wilderness just after Christ was taken up to His throne’, Why? Why, just after the ascension? The Acts of the apostles which portrays the events immediate to the ascension of Christ does not give such a picture. The Acts of the apostles which is part fulfilment of the prophecy in Rev 12, give us a direct record of the almost 35 years of the life of the church in the apostolic era immediate to the scenario of the ‘child of the woman being taken up to God’s throne’. In the Acts, we see nothing even similar to what the anti catholics claim. But we clearly see that just after the .child of the woman was caught up to God and to his throne’, at Pentecost the arrival of the Comforter and the continued presence and providence enjoyed by the church. A church going through a desert experience persecuted time and again by the Jews and Romans, but enjoying the comfort, providence and care of God’s Holy Spirit. A situation similar to the providence enjoyed by the ‘church in the wilderness’ in the Old Testament (Acts 7:38), that was also ‘carried on eagles wings’ (Ex 19:4) similar to the church in the wilderness portrayed in Revelation 12, that is given the ‘wings of an eagle’ (Rev 12:14).


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.


Acts 7:38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:


Well, looking at the sequence of events in Revelation Chapter 12& 13, we can clearly see that the woman is taken to the ‘wilderness’ or the church on earth becomes corrupt just after Jesus is caught up unto God and his throne (His ascension), and satan is thrown out of heaven. Satan goes to the Beast (catholic church) after this. If the wilderness event means the take over of the church by satan, then how is it that the Beast comes to the scene only later.  Then, a corrupt church and then another church which is the Beast?


The sequence of events makes this clear.

1)  Ascension of Christ and satan kicked out from heaven and the wilderness event of the church (the so called anti catholic claim of the take over of the church by satan).

2)  Satan enraged and after corrupting the Lord’s church, goes to the Beast who makes his entry. (actually Beast refers to the Roman empire that persecutes the church; anti catholics say the Beast as the catholic church, and that satan goes to the catholic church that is to say that just after Jesus ascended to heaven, the true church was corrupted by satan and satan then goes for help to the catholic church which makes it to seem that the catholic church existed before the corruption of the true church).


So, the wilderness effect or the anti-Catholic claim of the so called ‘take over of the church by satan’ comes before the Beast (Catholic church) enters the picture, and then meaning that there was one church corrupted by satan alongside another church the Beast or Catholic church, while the true church is taken into invisibility. Three churches at that time. So, the false claim that verses 12:6 & 14 point to moral corruption of the church to form the Catholic church, and that the true church was taken up to heaven is all just misconceived propaganda to confuse the elect. The life of the church in the Act of the apostles clearly explains this. Anticatholic propaganda would mean then that the ‘church in the wilderness’ of the Old Testament mentioned in Acts 7:38 was also a corrupt church? The verses only mean what we actually see in the Acts of the apostles which is again the fulfilment of the prophecy in Revelation 12, that during the severe persecutions by the agents of the dragon immediate to Christ’s ascension, the church going through an ‘out of the world’ experience is cared for and protected by God Himself and kept away from the attackes of satan, a situation similar to the Old testament ‘church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). In the Old Testament the 40 years in the desert under the direct protection and providence of God Himself, is termed by the Bible as the ‘church in the wilderness’. The same is in the New Testament as well, the church experience an ‘out of the world’ experience under the direct providence of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit from the day of His ascension. As portrayed in Acts 9:31.


Ac:9:31: Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.


A look at the verses dealing with the 'church in the wilderness'.


Re:12:1: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: Re:12:2: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. Re:12:3: And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. Re:12:4: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. Re:12:5: And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. Re:12:6: And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. Re:12:7: And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, Re:12:8: And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. Re:12:9: And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Re:12:10: And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. Re:12:11: And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Re:12:12: Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Re:12:13: And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. Re: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. Re: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. Re: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. Re: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. 


Sequence of events

1)       Woman with child travailing in birth (the church of the OT; OT Israel).

2)       A great red dragon (Satan)

3)       Dragon stood before the woman to devour her child as soon as it was born – Heord, satan’s agent

4)       Woman brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron – Christ born

5)       Child caught up unto God and to his throne – Christ ascended

6)       The woman fled into the wilderness –  The persecuted church fleeing to the protection and providence of God.

7)       Satan defeated by the victory of the cross, and consequently the proclamation in 12:10 -12

8)       The dragon seeing himself cast out of heaven, persecutes the woman (the church; the new Israel).

9)       The woman is given wings ; is protected from the face of satan.

10)   Satan fills the world with his flood of persecution to cause the church to get carried away by this flood of confusion.

11)   The earth helped the woman; the church by its ways of carrying off the persecution.

12)   The serpent goes after the rest of the seed of this church (individual believers).

13)   The dragon gives his power to the beast (Roman emperors Nero, Diocletan and others like he used Herod, etc) as Daniel 7 points to, for further persecution (Revelation Chapter 13).


Nowhere in Rev chaper 12 do we see a picture of the church being deserted by Christ, or of a church taken over by satan, as the anti catholics teach which is against what the Bible teaches. All the while we see the Lord protects it from the face of satan, with His direct providence similar to how He protected the ‘church in the wilderness’ in the Old Testament. We read in Exod 19:4 "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." These wings represent the divine assistance of God. The Old Testament church under the direct providence of God Himself is called in the Bible as ‘the church in the wilderness’. (Ac:7:38: This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us).


The arrival of the beast and the antichrist all happen after the church is ‘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’ not prior to it. i.e. the church goes through the wilderness experience first and later only does the Beast come in the picture.


As the devil continues to pursue the woman we read that he pours out water like a flood (by the word "flood" St. John indicates the strength or the might of the waters) after the woman and yet the earth opened its mouth to swallow the water. The waters here referrers to many people as we read in Apocalypse 17:15 that waters refers to "peoples and nations" which have always sought to destroy the Church (See also Isaias 8:8, Ezechiel  29:3).


The waters pouring forth from the mouth of the devil explains the constant persecution that the Church of God shall receive from her numerous enemies who throughout every generation seek to conquer her. We also note that the waters pour forth from his " mouth" that is, the water from his mouth is, a representation of all the lies and heresies that he (the devil) introduces in order that Christ's Kingdom may not endure. For He (the Devil) is a liar and the Father of lies. In Acts we also see how the earthly forces (in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament) are used by God to help the church in its time of persecutions.


The concluding words of St. John that the dragon " went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ".  Although the church is protected by God's special providence (Rev 12:16), the individual Christian is to expect persecution and suffering.


Anti Catholic propaganda leaves some questions unanswered such as,

The invisible church then ‘fled to the wilderness just after Christ was taken up to His throne’, Why? We do not see such a scene in the Acts or the epistles that were written only nearly 35 years after the ascension. But we clearly see in Acts and the epistles, the Catholic view that the church on earth faced severe persecution from the Roman empire soon after the ascension of Christ, and that it (the church) experienced the Lord’s direct providence similar to the ‘church in the wilderness’ in the Old Testament. We see the disciples scattered throughout the Roman empire and all of them facing severe persecution and experiencing the providence of God.


If the woman portrayed is the Invisible church, it is said to be ‘kept away from the face of Satan for a period’? How & where to was it taken away from satan? The members were all on earth and in the sight of satan.


The woman is taken away and the remnants left behind and persecuted by satan. Then Remnants persecuted by satan, are they another group of the invisible church left out to face satan? Woman and remnant then 2 separate entities?


Anticatholics or Sola Scriptura believers (Bible only followers) though they claim to follow 'only the Bible', they look to outside sources looking for the meaning of this context when the Bible clearly defines what it is and shows us plainly how it was in the first years of the church. In the Bible, we cannot find any mention of these views propagated by the anti catholics. The Book of Acts and the epistles which picture the happenings in the church for at least till around 35 years after the ascension of Jesus do not show anything of the church being kept away for a period from satan after the ascension or so, but affirms the catholic teaching that these refer to the persecutions faced by the church, and the Divine providence it experienced from God.

Footnotes from the USCCB  New American Bible clearly define the understanding of Revelation Chapter 12.


1 [12:1-14:20] This central section of Rev portrays the power of evil, represented by a dragon, in opposition to God and his people. First, the dragon pursues the woman about to give birth, but her son is saved and "caught up to God and his throne" (Rev 12:5). Then Michael and his angels cast the dragon and his angels out of heaven (Rev 12:7-9). After this, the dragon tries to attack the boy indirectly by attacking members of his church (Rev 12:13-17). A beast, symbolizing the Roman empire, then becomes the dragon's agent, mortally wounded but restored to life and worshiped by all the world (Rev 13:1-10). A second beast arises from the land, symbolizing the antichrist, which leads people astray by its prodigies to idolize the first beast (Rev 13:11-18). This is followed by a vision of the Lamb and his faithful ones, and the proclamation of imminent judgment upon the world in terms of the wine of God's wrath (Rev 14:1-20).


2 [1] The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars (images taken from Genesis 37:9-10) symbolizes God's people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah (Rev 12:5) and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 13-17); cf Isaiah 50:1; 66:7; Jeremiah 50:12.


3 [2] Because of Eve's sin, the woman gives birth in distress and pain (Genesis 3:16; cf Isaiah 66:7-14).


4 [3] Huge red dragon: the Devil or Satan (cf Rev 12:9; 20:2), symbol of the forces of evil, a mythical monster known also as Leviathan (Psalm 74:13-14) or Rahab (Job 26:12-13; Psalm 89:11). Seven diadems: these are symbolic of the fullness of the dragon's sovereignty over the kingdoms of this world; cf Christ with many diadems (Rev 19:12).


5 [5] Rule . . . iron rod: fulfilled in Rev 19:15; cf Psalm 2:9. Was caught up to God: reference to Christ's ascension.


6 [6] God protects the persecuted church in the desert, the traditional Old Testament place of refuge for the afflicted, according to the typology of the Exodus; see the note on Rev 11:2.


7 [7-12] Michael, mentioned only here in Rev, wins a victory over the dragon. A hymn of praise follows.


8 [7] Michael: the archangel, guardian and champion of Israel; cf Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 1:9. In Hebrew, the name Michael means "Who can compare with God?"; cf Rev 13:4.


9 [9] The ancient serpent: who seduced Eve (Genesis 3:1-6), mother of the human race; cf Rev 20:2; Eph 6:11-12. Was thrown down: allusion to the expulsion of Satan from heaven; cf Luke 10:18.


10 [10] The accuser: the meaning of the Hebrew word "Satan," found in Rev 12:9; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1; 1 Chron 21:1; he continues to accuse Christ's disciples.


11 [14] Great eagle: symbol of the power and swiftness of divine help; cf Exodus 19:4; Deut 32:11; Isaiah 40:31.


12 [15] The serpent is depicted as the sea monster; cf Rev 13:1; Isaiah 27:1; Ezekiel 32:2; Psalm 74:13-14.


13 [17] Although the church is protected by God's special providence (Rev 12:16), the individual Christian is to expect persecution and suffering.


14 [17(18)] It took its position: many later manuscripts and versions read "I took my position," thus connecting the sentence to the following paragraph.


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