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Revelation: Chapter 12

Setting

As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John is viewing all of the events from heaven where a war in heaven occurs, and Satan is permanently kicked out of heaven.  Thereafter, John observes the events on earth after Satan's expulsion from heaven.

Revelation 12 and Revelation 13 provide many details to what was voiced by the 24 elders in Revelation 11:15-18. After the sounding of the 7th trumpet, the 24 elders fell on their faces worshiping God. They proclaimed the events that are yet to unfold from the blowing of the 7th trumpet to the end of the tribulation. The details provided in Revelation 12 and Revelation 13 will come to fruition during the time from the pause after the 7th trumpet through the end of the bowl judgments. This period of time is the last half of the seven years of tribulation, and is called the great tribulation, Mathew 24:24-30. These two chapters in Revelation provide significant details of the main characters during the great tribulation. Other supporting prophetic passages go all the way back to Genesis 37:9 with Joseph and his dreams through the end of the great tribulation.

The events unfolded in these two chapters graphically illustrate the evil, brutality, and the extent of Satanís power, the Antichrist, and the false prophet. The sovereignty of God is evidenced through the preservation of the remnant of Israel and seeing those who call upon His name through this most difficult time. There are also two signs in heaven introduced in this chapter, the woman with child to be delivered and the red dragon. The following table lists the seven significant characters introduced in Revelation 12 and Revelation 13 who will take part in the great tribulation.

 

Character

Associated With

Passage

1

The pregnant woman

The nation of Israel

Revelation 12:1-2

2

The red dragon

Satan

Revelation 12:3-4

3

The Son

Jesus Christ

Revelation 12:5

4

Michael

Archangel

Revelation 12:7-12

5

The offspring of the woman

Tribulation Saints

Revelation 12:17

6

The seven headed beast

Antichrist

Revelation 13:1-4

7

Another beast out of the earth

False prophet

Revelation 13:11-17

Outline of this chapter

Verses Topic
1-2 A great sign in heaven, a pregnant woman
3-4 Another sign in heaven, a red dragon
5 The birth of the Son
6 The fleeing woman
7-12 The war in heaven, and the 3rd woe
13-17 The persecution by the dragon

A great sign in heaven, a pregnant woman     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 12:1, the first great wonder appeared in heaven. This is the first time that the terms wonder or sign are given in the book of Revelation. This distinction gives credence to the literal interpretation of all the previous objects described. The first sign is a woman is clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The vision with the sun, moon, and 12 stars was similar to the dreams that Joseph had concerning his family before being betrayed by his brothers, Genesis 37:9-11. Through the dreams of Joseph, a direct connection is made between the woman in this chapter as a representation the nation of Israel. There is no association of this woman with any other person or entity in human history.

The woman is not taken literally, but is symbolic of the nation Israel, Isaiah 9:6. In this passage "us" refers to the nation of Israel. Israel was separated by God from all the other peoples of the world to fulfill His promises and to show Himself to the world through them, Deuteronomy 7:6-9, Romans 9:4-5. With this identification, Israel was given the responsibility to receive and preserve the word of God that was delivered to them, Deuteronomy 4:5-8, Romans 3:1-2. Through Israel were given all the promises concerning Jesus Christ, and Israel was the nation through whom would come the messiah, the sin bearer of the world, Genesis 3:14-15, Genesis 12:3, Genesis 22:18, Genesis 28:10-14, Genesis 49:10, 2Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:1, Romans 1:3.

The woman is further described as being clothed with illumination, and a reflector at her feet. The woman clothed with the sun is symbolic of God and how He had clothed Israel only from among all the nations, with His word, Psalms 147:19-20. The moon and its phases are used for establishing the religious calendar and all the celebrations and feasts that relate to it. These are established through the laws of God given to Israel through Moses. The moon also represents the establishment of the kingly line through David, and its permanency established through Christ, where the moon provides the testament that this line through Israel will last forever, Psalms 89:35-37. The crown of 12 stars on the womanís head represents the 12 tribes of Israel, Genesis 37:9-11. Finally, contrast this to the seven candlesticks shown in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 which represents the church.

In Revelation 12:2, the woman is pregnant and cried out as she was about to give birth. The travail is mentioned in Isaiah 66:7-10. The child (Jesus Christ) was born before the travail. Israelís travail will occur during the tribulation, after Christís birth at least two millennia before the tribulation period. In the days of the invasion of King Nebuchadnezzar into Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem, which began the age of the Gentiles, the Lord recorded that event as Israel writhing in agony as a woman in labor, Micah 4:9-10. The thought continues further in time, from the middle of the tribulation through its end, where Israel again will be in agony before the return and deliverance by the Messiah, Micah 4:11-12. These are the days Jeremiah spoke of as the time of Jacobís trouble, Jeremiah 30:4-7.

Another sign in heaven, a red dragon     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 12:3, the second great wonder in heaven is described as the great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. The characteristic of this dragon point to his strength and destructive power, and red is indicative of his desire for war. In Revelation 12:9 the dragon is identified as Satan. Remember that Satan is not on any par with God but a rebellious being that was created by God. Satan was defeated and judged at the cross of Jesus, John 16:7-11, John 12:30-33. However, Satan is still the ruler of the air and the prince of this world until the return of Jesus Christ with all His saints, Ephesians 2:1-2. Satan retains the power given him until the day he is finally thrown into the lake of fire, which occurs in Revelation 20:7-11. It is extremely important that none of the attributions of God are applied to Satan: Satan

  • He is not omniscient as God
  • He is not omnipotent as God
  • He is not omni-present as God

Satan is described in this chapter as the second great wonder in heaven. Other scriptures point to the wisdom and beauty that Satan was given when he was created, Ezekiel 28:11-19. Some view the seven heads as symbolizing his wisdom, ten horns symbolizing his great power, and the seven crowns symbolize the kingdoms he rules.

Since Satan is a created being, these characteristics may also relate to the limitations of Satan during the tribulation, since his protťgťe, the Antichrist, is depicted in much the same way in Revelation 13 and as shown in Daniel 7. The seven crowns of the dragon may reflect the final seven kingdoms that will exist in the revived Roman Empire before the end of the tribulation, Daniel 7:8 where there were 10 horns, but with the rise of the little horn (the Antichrist), three were uprooted, leaving only seven of the revived Roman Empire. The ten horns of the dragon may represent the final ten kingdoms of the revived Roman Empire in the image dreamt by King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:40-44.

In Revelation 12:4, the tail of the dragon took 1/3 of the stars, or angels, out of heaven and flung them to the earth. Satanís fall is written in many places such as Isaiah 14:12-15, and his character in John 8:44. These are demons that support Satan's rule over the earth, Matthew 25:41, Ephesians 6:12. Since Satan cannot be at all places at once, nor observe everyone or their thoughts, these other angels help perform these tasks. In Zechariah 3:1-2, Satan is seen standing before the Lord accusing Joshua the high priest.

In this chapter, the dragon is seen standing in front of the woman so that when she delivered the child (Jesus), he would devour Him. This has always been Satanís tactic. Throughout Israelís history Satan has tried to destroy the Messianic line of Christ, from the rebellion of Absalom, to Queen Athaliah who tried to kill the whole royal family of Judah, but Joash was protected, 2Chronicles 22:10-12. Satan did the same through Hamanís attempt to destroy all the Jews, Esther 3:6, as well as using King Herod to destroy the child Jesus in sending out his order to kill all children two years old and younger in Bethlehem and its surrounding areas, Matthew 2:16.

As mentioned above, Satan is a judged and defeated created being. Some of the judgments against Satan include:

The birth of the Son     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 12:5, the child who is born is the Christ, as he is the only one to ascend to the throne, Acts 1:9 Ė11. He is the Shepherd to rule all nations with a rod of iron, Psalms 2:9, Galatians 4:4-5. Only Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, Hebrews 2:13, Hebrews 10:11-13, which Stephen witnessed as he spoke of seeing Christ standing at the right hand of God, Acts 7:55-56.

The fleeing woman     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 12:6, Israel flees into the wilderness to a place that God has prepared for her for 1,260 days. This may be the ancient city of Petra, but like the Exodus, it could be actually the desert in the Negev. He could provide for them again as He did during the Exodus when He provided all of Israelís needs in the desert with manna, water, and a pillar of fire to warm them at night, and a cloud by day to shelter them from the heat, Psalms 78:12-16, Psalms 78:23-25. The time referred to in this verse is the last half of tribulation, the great tribulation. Jesus warned about this period of time during the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:15-22. Ezekiel wrote too about the Lord meeting with the remnant of Israel and having them pass under the rod, Ezekiel 20:32-38. Hosea spoke of the time when he would allure Israel back to him, Hosea 2:14-23. This is the transformaton of Israel God spoke of when He will give Israel a new spirit, Ezekiel 36:24-32. However, only a third of the nation of Israel will be preserved at this time and be refined by the Lord, Zechariah 13:7-9.

The war in heaven, and the 3rd woe     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 12:7-9, there is a war in heaven, which occurs during the mid-tribulation. The war is between Michael and his angels, and Satan and his angels. As shown earlier, Satan had access before the throne of God to accuse us and to petition God to afflict us, Job 1:6-12, Luke 22:31-34. Notice that Satanís demons had access as well in heaven, probably to report to Satan as his kingdom is ordered, Matthew 12:25-28.

In Revelation 12:8, Satan and his forces are not strong enough to fight Michael and his angels, and Satan lost his place in heaven forever more.

In Revelation 12:9, Satan and his angels will not just be thrown down into the air where he currently rules, but all the way down to earth.  In this verse there are several names given to Satan:

  • The great dragon
  • Ancient serpent
  • Devil
  • Satan
  • He is the one who leads the whole world astray.

In Revelation 12:10, there is a loud voice from heaven that calls out for the third time.  The first was in Revelation 5:2 concerning who is worthy to open the sealed scroll, and second in Revelation 10:3 who had the little scroll.  There is the several aspects of the Godís kingdom revealed:

  • In Daniel 7:13-14, Jesus Christ was brought before the Father and given dominion, glory and a kingdom that will not be destroyed
  • Salvation Ė all things will now be fulfilled that were promised by the Lord, 1John 3:1-3
  • Strength Ė this is the end of the Gentile rule when the stone from heaven will crush the multi-metallic image at its toes and turn it into dust, Daniel 2:33-35
  • The kingdom of our God Ė the stone from heaven turned into a great mountain, Daniel 2:44-45
  • The power and authority of Jesus Christ, Philippians 2:5-11, (every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord), Ephesians 1:7-10, (the mystery of His will)

The establishment of the Lordís kingdom begins with the removal of Satan for 1,000 years from before the Lord, and he will no longer accuse the saints of God. It is also intriguing to see the reference to night and day in heaven with regard to Satanís activities in accusing us before God.

Revelation 12:11 reveals how all saints through Christ overcame Satanís relentless accusations against them by:

In Revelation 12:12 is the announcement of the 3rd woe. There is a call for rejoicing by those in heaven and dwell there, which would include the OT saints, the church, and the slain tribulation saints. The 3rd woe is given to those on the earth and sea because Satan has gone down to them and can no longer ascend up to the heavens, ever again.  The 1st woe was the final three trumpets, Revelation 9:12 and the 2nd woe was the ministry of the two witnesses, Revelation 11:14.

With his overthrow from heaven, Satan is filled with fury, as he KNOWS that his time is short. There are only 3 Ĺ years left in the tribulation and before he is put into the abyss for 1,000 years. There are three levels in heaven that are referred to in scripture, and until this time Satan had access to them all. Satan had been allowed to the 3rd heaven, and the mountain of God, Ezekiel 28:14-17, 1Kings 8:27, the same place Paul spoke of, 2Corinthians 12:1-4. The 2nd heaven is the celestial or universe of stars, Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:14-19, Deuteronomy 10:14-15. The lower heaven is the air around earth, in which Satan is now ruler, Ephesians 2:1-3 and is cast out of. This is where the church had meet Christ before the beginning of the tribulation. The Lord will have called the church up to Him in the clouds at the time of the rapture, 1Thessalonians 4:16-18.

The persecution by the dragon     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 12:13, John observes Satan being cast out of heaven, full of fury, and knows that he has just a short time left. In his rage he pursues Israel. Though Satan tried and failed to destroy the Messianic line, or Christ himself at his birth and death, he now tries to destroy the nation of Israel so that God cannot fulfill all his promises to them. Satanís hatred knows no bounds. This is about the same time when the Antichrist is in the land of Israel, establishing his command center in Jerusalem, and has setup his image in the tribulation temple in Jerusalem.

Revelation 12:14 is the beginning of the great tribulation has begun, and the remnant of Israel is fleeing into the wilderness. Whether Israel is led to the desert or to the city of Petra, she is protected by God and given the capabilities (wings of eagles) to swiftly move into the place that God prepared for her for time, times, and half a time (3 Ĺ years), Exodus 19:3-6, Zechariah 13:8-9.

In Revelation 12:15-16, John observes the dragon simulating the power of God by trying to use a flood to destroy his enemies as God did during Noahís day sending a worldwide flood to judge the unrighteous and also against Pharaoh's army as they pursed the children of Israel into the Red Sea. The flood caused by Satan may also represent a military host persecuting Israel. However, the earth swallows the flood, as happened with Koraís rebellion, Numbers 16:23-33.

In Revelation 12:17, as a result of all Satanís attempts to war against God and Israel, with no success, he now wars on the saints in the world who are not part of the group that are being sheltered by God in the wilderness. The dragon (Satan), seeing that his efforts were thwarted by God makes war on the remaining saints who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, John 15:10-17, 1John 3:21-24, Hebrews 10:11-14. These are all of the other Christians who are spread throughout the world, and who eventually make up the innumerable multitude before the throne of God. However, some other commentators think that this attack is only upon the sealed 144,000.

This is the time of great persecution for the saints of God seen before the opening of the 7th seal. These are the ones who were slain for the word of God and the testimony they had maintained, Revelation 7:9-17. These are the saints also referred to who were beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God, Revelation 20:4.


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

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