Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 12

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Verses 1-6

The Dragon, the Woman and the Child

Revelation 12:1. After the temple of God and the ark of His covenant (Revelation 11:19) “a great sign appeared in heaven”. This sign is in line with the temple and the ark. The temple and the ark are the center of God’s earthly people Israel. The great sign in heaven refers to Israel. The sign is ‘in heaven’, for it represents God’s plan with Israel according to His counsel (Romans 11:29) and is therefore something that is fixed in His heavenly counsel.

The woman represents in several places in this book a company of people or a system. In this way there is mention of Jezebel (Revelation 2:20), which is the papacy, the great harlot (Revelation 17:1-Joshua :), and also the nominal Christianity which is closely related to the papacy. In that way there is also mention of the bride (Rev 19-22), which is the glorified church. Here the woman represents Israel. You can derive that from the characteristics. They are presented like God intends them to be. In the time of the birth of the Child (which the following verses are dealing with) was not the case yet, for then Israel was under the yoke of Rome.

Israel is “clothed with the sun”. The sun is the image of the highest authority on earth (cf. Psalms 104:2). It has always been God’s intention to make Israel head of all nations (Deuteronomy 28:1). That is emphasized by “the moon under her feet”. You can derive from that, that all earthly powers in the millennial kingdom of peace acknowledge the authority of Israel. Also the “crown of twelve stars” she is wearing, testifies of her glory. It is very well possible that the twelve stars represent the twelve tribes as channels through which the blessing of God in the millennial kingdom will flow to all parts of the earth.

Revelation 12:2. After this awesome perspective on the future something curious of the woman is noticed: “She was with child.” Moreover, her pregnancy has come to the stage of giving birth. She cried out in labor and in pain.

This description gives a flashback of the past and looks forward to the future. On the one hand you go back in time, namely to the birth of the Lord Jesus from the people of Israel (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2). On the other hand you go to the future, for the labor pains which refer to the time of the great tribulation (Matthew 24:15-Ecclesiastes :), are still to come. Nevertheless, the labor pains announce the new life. This new life refers to the coming of the Lord Jesus, His second coming of course. That coming is seen as a new birth.

Therefore somewhere else it is said very remarkably for instance that He will come out of (and not: to) Zion (Romans 11:26). It is as if the people have given birth to Him only then. That is the moment that God again “brings the firstborn into the world” (Hebrews 1:6). He will not come again as a defenseless Babe Who is being rejected, but as the Ruler.

In order to understand this representation of matters well, it is important to see that the intervening age of the church is not taken into account. Here at one time you switch from the past, where so many promises were made, to the future for the fulfillment of those promises. In the past the promises could not be fulfilled because of the unfaithfulness of Israel and the rejection of the Lord Jesus. In the future those promises will altogether be fulfilled on the ground of the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus. In this chapter you see how that will come to pass.

Revelation 12:3. After the sign of Israel you see that “another sign appeared in heaven”. This other sign is the “dragon” or satan. His color is ‘fiery red’, which represents the color of the blood of his many victims. It indicates the murderous activities of this enemy of God.

He has also “seven heads” with a crown on each head and “ten horns”. You can find the explanation of that later in chapter 13 (Revelation 13:1) and 17 (Revelation 17:3; Revelation 17:7-2 Kings :). These chapters deal with the Roman empire. In the description here the emphasis lies on the diabolic power that is hidden behind this empire. The heads represent both the extraordinary intelligence and power. The crowns indicate the royal position which the dragon arrogates to himself. The horns refer to power and strength.

Revelation 12:4. Like it already has been shown, the tail represent lies and false doctrines (Revelation 9:10; Isaiah 9:14). These false doctrines are spread by the dragon through the antichrist, the false prophet. “A third of the stars of heaven” that are dragged by his false doctrines may refer to those who have a leading position in the Roman empire. Those are probably light bearers that will bring a nominal Christian doctrine after the rapture of the church.

After you have seen the dragon in his devouring and deceptive work you see him standing before the woman who is about to give birth. His intention is to devour the Child Whom she will give birth to, as soon as it has been born. Here you see what you read in the gospel according to Matthew about the attempt of Herod to kill the Lord Jesus when he heard about His birth (Matthew 2:13-Nehemiah :).

Revelation 12:5. Here the birth of the Lord Jesus is first described and then the purpose of His birth: His kingdom over all nations. But because He is hated and rejected, God catches His Son up, to Himself and to His throne. That has taken place with the ascension.

Revelation 12:6. You read nothing in this chapter about the time of the church. The church is not a subject of the prophecy. The Christian period is skipped. We suddenly find ourselves in Revelation 12:6 in the time of great tribulation, which is in the second part of the seventieth week which endures seven years from Daniel 9 (Daniel 9:24-:). Therefore the next act of God is related to the runaway of the woman that she may not fall prey to the dragon. Here the woman represents the people of Israel, but particularly that part of Israel that is related to Him, which is the believing remnant.

God protects the woman against the persecutor by providing her with a hiding place. In that place he feeds her for twelve hundred and sixty days, which is three and a half years (one month counts thirty days). The fact that there is mention of “days” indicates the daily care of God for His own. They will pray the prayer “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) in the truest sense of the word. It is very likely that Moab is the place where they experience His care and providence each day (Psalms 60:9; Psalms 108:10; Isaiah 16:4).

Now read Revelation 12:1-6 again.

Reflection: What could you learn from this section, regarding your personal faith life?

Verses 7-17

Satan Thrown Down to the Earth

Revelation 12:7. Now we will get the explanation of why the woman has to flee to the wilderness. That’s because satan is thrown out of heaven to the earth, which is the result of a war that ignites in heaven. It could be the case that satan thinks that he has a chance to seize power in heaven, now that the beast and the antichrist have full control on earth. It may also possibly be a last act of despair to stop the coming definite judgments.

In the outbreak of the war two superpowers stand against each other, two leaders and each of them has an army that is led by them. The one party is Michael with his angels, which are the elected angels. The other party is the dragon, which is satan with his angels, which are the fallen angels. With heaven, the territory where the war is going on, is meant here the firmament of the heavenly places. It is not the place where God dwells and to which satan has access. There he is unable to develop his power in opposition, but is totally subjected to God.

Revelation 12:8. In this war the dragon and his angels have to face Michael and his angels. The fight is fierce, but satan has to suffer the defeat. He and his angels are removed from heaven, where they up to that moment have had access. It is actually important to see that it is not a war between the Lord Jesus and satan. That wouldn’t be a war between two more or less equivalent superpowers, for the Lord Jesus is God the Almighty and satan is His creature.

Revelation 12:9. It is comprehensively made clear here that the great dragon is satan. The great dragon is “that serpent of old” from Genesis 3 (Genesis 3:1). The name ‘serpent of old’ is a reminder of his great power that lies in his deception. The name “devil” is derived from the Greek diabolos and it means ‘accuser’ or ‘slanderer’. His work consists of speaking evil and accusing, whereby he distorts the truth. The name “Satan” means ‘adversary’. He is the archenemy of God and His Christ. He is the liar and murderer of men from the beginning (John 8:44). He is relentlessly and unchangeably active in deceiving the whole world, all men and in particular to take God’s children away or to drag them away from God and Christ.

After his humiliation because of his resistance against God Who removed him from the holy mountain of God (Ezekiel 28:14-Nehemiah :; Isaiah 14:12-Ezra :), he still had access to God. You see that in Job 1:6; Job 2:1. But it is over now. He is thrown on the earth in order to be even more humiliated. That will happen when he will be locked up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. After he will be released from there for a short period of time, he will get his deepest and definite humiliation when he will be thrown into hell (Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:10). The Lord Jesus has seen and foretold his fall (Luke 10:18).

Revelation 12:10. The great dragon and his angels are removed from heaven and thrown out on the earth. After satan is thrown out from heaven a voice in heaven speaks about “the salvation” that has come. That refers to the millennial kingdom of peace. It is the salvation of the whole creation from the power of satan and the coming of the wonderful time of peace and righteousness over the whole earth. Then the kingdom has come with power.

The voice in heaven that John hears, speaks about “the kingdom of our God”. It is the great victory of the God with Whom they have come into relation by putting their trust in Him in the sacrifice that He has given in His Son for them and their sins. That Son is His Christ to Whose authority they have submitted themselves and Who now will exercise that power over the whole creation. They know that they are related to others, “our brethren”, who have also by faith entrusted themselves to God and the power of His Christ.

Their brethren who at that moment are on earth have nothing to fear anymore of a satan in heaven who accuses them before God (Zechariah 3:1). Satan, “the accuser … has been thrown down”, who relentlessly “accuses” the believers “before our God day and night”. The time of accusing is over. The beginning of the fall of satan is the harbinger of the ultimate victory.

Revelation 12:11. The fall of satan will have devastating consequences on the earth. But for those who believe the victory will be certain by the blood of the Lamb. Their testimony which they gave by their word is also a triumph over satan. They have not bowed their knees to him, but they have defeated him by their testimony, even though it has cost them their lives. At the same time they had the assurance that they could not ever lose life because they believed in the power of the blood of the Lamb. The body can be killed, but not the soul. It seems that these are the martyrs of chapter 6. “They did not love their lives” (Revelation 6:9), but they gave their lives unto death by their persistent testimony of the Lamb.

Revelation 12:12. Now the accuser has been removed from heaven there is room for joy. But for “the earth and the sea”, whereon the devil was been thrown down, the consequences are terrible, even though these consequences will not last long. With ‘the earth’ Israel is meant in particular, while you should consider ‘the sea’ as the restored Roman empire.

When satan is thrown down on the sea the great tribulation will begin, which will last for three and a half years. His anger has no limits, but fortunately his time does (Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:24). The devil, “knowing that he has [only] a short time”, will make every effort to cause a persecution that is unprecedented in history.

Revelation 12:13. You have read in Revelation 12:6 about the runaway of the woman. In the Revelation 12:7-2 Kings : you saw why that was necessary: it has to do with the throwing out of satan on the earth. Now your attention is drawn again to the runaway of the woman and you get further particulars regarding her runaway. The anger of satan is now especially focused on the believing remnant of Israel, that is represented by “the woman who gave birth to the male Child”. Out of this nation Christ was born Who will fulfill God’s plans with His people and the world.

Satan is called “the dragon”, because he seeks to devour cruelly and without any compassion. Here satan takes off his mask. First he showed a friendly face in the monstrous covenant that he caused to be made between the Roman empire and the apostate Israel (Daniel 9:27). That is in the period of the first part of the last week – a period of seven years – Daniel writes about. The temple service for instance was still allowed to take place. But that changes when satan will be thrown down on the earth. Then he will do everything possible and will use all the means he has at his disposal to eradicate everything that has to do with God.

Revelation 12:14. God gives the woman “two wings of the great eagle” at her disposal. The wings enable her to escape from the anger of the dragon (cf. Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11; Isaiah 40:31). Those wings also enable her to fly “to her place”. God has a place for her where she will be kept safe from the dragon and where He will take care of her during the time that the dragon is allowed to do his atrocities on earth (Matthew 24:15-Nehemiah :).

With “a time and times and half a time” again the three and a half year of the great tribulation is meant. ‘A time’ indicates a year, ‘times’ indicates two years and ‘half a time’ indicates one half year. In her hiding place “the serpent” with his deceptions has no access to her.

Revelation 12:15. When you consider the serpent as the deceiver, you may consider the water that comes out of his mouth like a flood as an enormous flood of deceptions. The purpose of all kinds of deceiving miracles and signs is also to get hold of the elected ones. The deception will be phenomenal and will be a part of the great tribulation. When there is an enormous threat, there is a great risk to give in to all kinds of miracles and signs that come out of the mouth of the deceiver (2 Thessalonians 2:9-2 Samuel :). If those days were not shortened, then even the elected would fall prey to it. But they will be shortened precisely for their sake (Matthew 24:22).

Revelation 12:16. God will supernaturally intervene, in order to make the attempts of the serpent (here again called dragon) fail. He has His instruments on earth that will help His people in that time of the greatest need. These are probably people who stand up for the persecuted ones and take care of them. God makes sure that His people will not die. He makes a hedge around them (cf. Job 1:10). He does not yet act openly in the favor of His people, but He protects them in a hidden way against total destruction.

Revelation 12:17. When the dragon sees that his attempts to eliminate the remnant as a whole have failed, he looks for other victims to express his anger against them. There is still “a rest of her children”. It seems that these are the believers who stayed behind in Jerusalem (Zephaniah 3:12). Because the dragon was focused on the majority, he did not pay attention to the few believers in Jerusalem. God knows those as the ones who keep His commandments. They are focused on Him. That makes them have “the testimony of Jesus”. They are associated with Him.

Now read Revelation 12:7-18 again.

Reflection: What are the consequences when satan is thrown out to the earth?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 12". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/revelation-12.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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