The Shadow to the End of Time – Day 7

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1–6)

Ever since seeing the first Terminator movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, I have been cautious of technology. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Luddite.[1] I have a smartphone, a computer, and a tablet, and let’s be honest, there is more technology in our watches than in the Apollo 13 capsule.

I also don’t believe that the Terminator movies were written to warn us that computers will someday unleash genocidal war upon all humanity. They do, however, remind us to count the cost of new technology; there is a cost to handing over our autonomy to that which we have automated.

This type of futuristic, apocalyptic movie takes us to a new, unfamiliar world so that we can see our own old, familiar world with new eyes that are clearer and more cautious. The vision of John does the same for the reader of Scripture.

In Revelation 12:1–6, we are introduced to three characters: a woman, a baby boy, and a dragon. John is pretty clear on who the dragon is; just check out verse 9. The baby boy is Jesus, the Messiah, whom the beast wants to destroy, but the child is ultimately victorious and taken up to heaven. It is a strange, unfamiliar world to tell the old, old story anew; the story of Christmas through the Ascension in one sentence!

But who is the woman? Mary? Israel? The Church? A lot of ink has been spilt addressing that question. I think the answer might just be all of the above. The woman is representative of God’s faithful people. Those with whom he finds favor. Those whom the Evil One wants to destroy.

Yes, that is Mary, but it is also the faithful of Israel from whom Christ arises, and the Church continues as the children of Abraham – some of us grafted into the family tree. What I want to catch our eye, though, is that all along this story is pain, the terror of the dragon, and the wandering of the wilderness.

We know the ending of the story, but the journey is under a shadow: a shadow of pain, a shadow of death, and ultimately the shadow of the cross. Even after the Ascension, the woman, or the people of God, is sent into the wilderness. Yes, a place of provision, but also a place of travail. May we be nourished in the midst of our wanderings; may we be nourished under the shadow to the end!

Heavenly Father, thank you for telling us the ending of the story and preparing us for the journey to get there. We know the road will not be easy, but we worship the one who traveled the road before us and who provides along the way. In his name, the name of Jesus, we pray, amen.

[1] Luddites were English workers in the 19th century who destroyed machinery as a form of protest because they believed technology was taking away their jobs. Now it can refer to anyone who is opposed to technology.