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Revelation 12

Revelation 12

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

The account of this sign in heaven that John sees sets the background for everything that is about to culminate with the final judgments of God.  He saw a woman clothed with the sun (perhaps picturing God’s love and blessing for His chosen nation).  The moon was under her feet (perhaps depicting the future honor and exaltation of the nation), and on her head was a crown of twelve stars, clearly representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  She was with child, and she cried out, being in labor and pain to give birth.  The woman represents the Jewish people through whom the entire world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3) on account of Jesus being born (see v. 5).  God loves His chosen nation (Deuteronomy 10:15), and He always will (Ezekiel 16).  Sadly, many refused to believe in Him, but some have and some will. 

3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

Another sign appeared in heaven.  There was a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns.  Revelation 17:9-12 says, “Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.”  Thus, Scripture explains the meaning of the great red dragon and his seven heads and ten horns.  The seven heads represent historical world powers (thus, the crowns on the heads) of which the dragon, that is, the antichrist is the seventh (and the eighth in the sense that he fakes his own resurrection).  The ten horns are ten kings who are given authority with the beast for a short time during his brief world rule (see also Revelation 13:1).  The antichrist will rise out of the region of the old Roman empire, and he will subdue three kings (Daniel 7:24).  Daniel 7:25 says of the antichrist, “He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.”  That the dragon casts a third of the stars in John’s vision to earth most likely refers to the angels which fell from heaven with Satan during his rebellion from God (see v. 7-9, Ezekiel 28:11-19, and Isaiah 14:12-14).  The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, for he wanted to devour the child.  Jesus (see v. 5) was protected from Herod’s plan to kill all the male children under two years of age and younger because of the angel’s revelation to Joseph to flee (Matthew 2:13-15). 

5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she *had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

The woman gave birth to a Son (Micah 5:3), and Jesus will one day rule all the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:27, 19:15).  The antichrist who thinks he is powerful, coming from the region of the old Roman empire which is represented in Daniel as iron (Daniel 2:40-43, 7:23), will be crushed by the One who rules with a rod of iron.  Jesus’ rule will not be cruel but sure.  Satan’s imitation rule will be short-lived, and it will fail.  Jesus obeyed God and died for sin and rose again so that He would be given the name above all names and all authority.  He ascended into heaven until the time when He would return to judge the world, which is imminent in this unfolding of the Book of Revelation.  The woman, that is, the nation of Israel, is seen in John’s vision as fleeing into the wilderness where God will have a place to protect her for the 1,260 days of the tribulation period.  This second three and a half year period was predicted by Jesus as being a time when those still in Jerusalem would need to flee to the mountains if they hoped to survive (see also verses 13-17).  Matthew 24:15-16 says, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.)”  This may have also been foretold in Isaiah 26:20 which says, “Come, my people, enter into your rooms And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while Until indignation runs its course.”  Though many countries will fall before the antichrist, Edom, Moab, and Ammon will be spared (Daniel 11:41).  It may be that this is where many Jews will hide out during the great tribulation (see also Jeremiah 31:2, Matthew 24:15, and Zechariah 14:2).  During the great tribulation, many Jews are killed or sold into slavery (Joel 3:3, Revelation 18:13).  However, a remnant will be saved spiritually (Revelation 7:4-8, 11:13), and a remnant will be saved physically which will also turn back to God spiritually (Zechariah 14:1-5, Jeremiah 30:7). 

7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

John saw war in heaven, Michael the archangel (Jude 1:9) and his angels fighting against the dragon, Satan.  The dragon and his fallen angels, the demons, fought back, but they were not strong enough.  They were cast out of heaven.  This points to the account of Isaiah 14:12-14 in which Satan is cast out of heaven for wanting to take God’s place and be like the Most High.  Satan, the serpent of old from Genesis 3, was cast out of heaven and allowed to deceive the whole world, just as he did Eve who took Adam along with her in sin (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:14).  Satan was cast out of heaven with his demons down to earth where he was allowed to rule as prince of the power of the air for human history up until Christ returns (Ephesians 2:2).  During this period in which Christ advances His kingdom in the hearts of men, the devil opposes the saints (1 Peter 5:8) and increasingly deceives those on the earth (2 Timothy 3:13).  During Satan’s final seven years roaming the earth before he is cast into the pit for a thousand years, he deceives the masses to an even greater extent because he knows his time is short (v. 12).  2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 says, “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”  The antichrist will use signs, wonders, and intrigue to get the attention of the world, and they will bow to him in fear and submission (Revelation 13:12-15, Daniel 8:23).  He, as well as his false prophet, Satan, the demons, and those who worship him, will be cast into the lake of fire in the end (Revelation 19:20-21, 20:7-15). 

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. 12 For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” 

Even way back when Satan was cast out of heaven, God demonstrated Himself to be God alone and all-powerful.  But that didn’t mean that Satan would stop fighting and opposing God and His children.  He even accuses believers by trying to convince God that they are not worth allowing into heaven and by trying to convince believers that God won’t forgive them on earth if they repent.  He doesn’t bring the good news of the gospel, but he reinforces a hopeless life and a doomed eternity of condemnation.  Sometimes he tricks people into damnation by lying to them about their “righteousness,” while other times he tries to convince them that even Christ could not make them righteous.  But Jesus intercedes for believers, for it is His blood which makes them acceptable in God’s sight.  As Romans 8:33-34 says, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”  And Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  It is by Jesus’ shed blood that the ransom has been paid and that believers have an entryway into the presence of God.  Those who repent of their sin and put their faith in Christ to save them will find that they are saved forever and kept by Jesus because of His ministry of intercession.  No accusation against the body of Christ will stand because Jesus paid it all.  It is because of the perfect Lamb’s sacrifice to which believers testify by their words and deeds that they overcome (Romans 10:9-10, Matthew 7:20).  Overcoming is not something that any person can do apart from Christ, but it is something that Jesus will do in and through those who are humble, contrite over sin, and who tremble before His Word (Isaiah 66:2).  These whom Jesus saves will endure to the end, even if they stumble to the finish line, because Jesus makes intercession for them.  He is their boast and their righteousness before a holy God.  As Christ’s return nears, a loud voice in heaven exalts over the fact that He will win because He already has won.  He won when Satan was cast out of heaven, and He won on the cross by dying for sin and rising from the dead.  Even though Satan will make war against believers on the earth, particularly during the reign of the antichrist, believers have the last laugh because Jesus has already won the war.  Satan even knows that his time is short and that he will lose.  Thus, his wrath is great as he tries to take down and deceive as many as possible before his time is expired.  There is no mystery as to whether it is Satan or God Who is sovereign, and believers can have great hope in that reality.  It should cause them to rejoice because the weight of glory is so worth even paying the ultimate price of martyrdom on earth.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14 But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. 17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Satan understands that he has lost the war with Jesus being born, dying for sin, and rising from the dead, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t use his hatred against God to persecute the saints and the Jews, God’s chosen nation.  He has done this throughout history, and he will do it severely in the tribulation period, even treading the city of Jerusalem underfoot, ending sacrifices, defiling the temple, and even setting himself up as god (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Daniel 12:11, Matthew 24:15).  This must happen until the power of the holy people, Israel, is shattered (Daniel 12:7).  However, a remnant will be saved until the end (Zechariah 12, 14:1-5), even to the end of the three and a half years of the great tribulation (Daniel 7:25; 12:7, 11-12).  God will protect a remnant in the wilderness (see notes on verses 5-6) during the great tribulation.  Verses 15-16 point out that Satan will somehow make an aggressive attack on the Jews to wipe them out, but it will fail.  Perhaps this refers to a flood of armies being brought against them only to have the earth open up during a quake of some kind to block them from reaching their objective (see Zechariah 14:5).  He will recognize that he has been stymied by God, and he will in great wrath go after any tribulation saint anywhere he can find one.  This comes across as a sort of desperation attempt on the part of the devil as his time runs out and the battle is about to be lost.  His acts of desperation will be short-lived as Jesus will slaughter him and the armies of the earth (2 Thessalonians 2:8, Revelation 19:11-21).