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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Revelation 12

Verses 1-17


The woman, the child and the dragon (12:1-17)

In this vision the woman who gives birth to a son seems to symbolize Israel who produced the Messiah, Jesus. But it is the true Israel, the true people of God, who are pictured here. The faithful of old Israel were those who began the Christian church, and in the church there is no distinction on the basis of nationality. All Christians are now God’s people (12:1-2).
Then appears a dragon (identified in verse 9 as Satan) whose many heads, horns and crowns show his extraordinary power. He is hard to overcome. When apparently defeated in one place, he finds new energy in another. His conquest of a large portion of the angelic powers (‘a third of the stars of heaven’) is only a preparation for his main task, the conquest of the Messiah. He tried to destroy Jesus, from the day of his birth to the day of his death, but he never succeeded, not even at the crucifixion. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and returned in glory to his Father (3-5).

Unable to destroy Christ, Satan turns his attack on Christ’s people. But God has foreseen this and he specially protects them and provides for them during this time. Persecuted Christians need not fear Satan. Their time of greatest trial (again represented by the symbolic figure of three and a half years; cf. 11:2-3) is their time of greatest blessing. They may be killed but they are not destroyed, for God saves them for his heavenly kingdom (6; cf. 2 Timothy 4:6,2 Timothy 4:18).

The battle between good and evil is fought in heaven as well as on earth. Believers can take courage when they learn that God’s angels triumph, while the devil and his angels are thrown out of heaven (7-9). The heavenly conquest of Satan gives reassurance to Christ’s people on earth that they too are conquerors of Satan. They share in the glorious victory of Christ’s kingdom, and the basis of that victory is Christ’s death. He was victorious through death, and those who are killed for his sake are likewise victorious (10-11). Satan responds viciously. Knowing that little time remains before Christ returns and captures him, he intensifies his attacks on God’s people (12).
Returning to the picture of the woman, the revelation repeats that when Satan finds that he cannot destroy Christ, he tries to destroy Christ’s people (13). It repeats also that the time of the Christians’ intense suffering is the time of God’s special protection (14; cf. 11:2-3; 12:6; 13:5). (‘A time, times and half a time’ means ‘a year plus two years plus half a year’, or three and a half years.) Satan tries every method he knows to destroy Christ’s people but is not successful. God, by his supernatural power, preserves them (15-16). Unable to destroy them, Satan nevertheless does whatever he can to oppose and persecute them (17).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.