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Bible Commentaries

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT

Revelation 12

Verse 1

Introduction

As Ray Summers observes, “Many times it appears that the enemy has the upper hand and will win, but all the time we know that victory is ours because we have seen the headline announcing victory. John used this method many times in Revelation - always very effectively.” (2, 167)

Chapter 12 begins the second part of the book. Some have thought this begins a second vision. I do not believe there is a second vision. The seals lead to the trumpets. The trumpets end with the little book that tells about judgment of men. John is told that there are many things that he will need to prophesy after eating the book. With chapter 12 begins the message that John was to deliver.

In the second half of Revelation, the characters are the same. The war between Satan and the church is the same. The outcome will be the same. The action will intensify in speed. The actions will be more dramatic. And the book will end with the complete victory for the church and complete defeat for Satan.

1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

A. John begins now to describe what he saw after he had eaten the little book.

B. A woman - John sees a radiant woman, clothed with the sun. She has 12 stars on her head.

C. There are a couple of theories about whom this woman represents.

1. Mary - It is thought by some that this is a description of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mostly Roman Catholic commentators, seeking to elevate the worship and veneration of Mary, hold this view.

2. Jewish System - Woodruff believes that the woman represents the “Jewish system of religion.” Christ was brought to the world through the Jewish lineage. God intended the Law of Moses to bring us to Christ. Woodruff argues that the 12 stars symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel.

3. Church - The church is, in the rest of the New Testament, seen as the bride of Christ. In Rom_7:4 , the church is married to Christ. In 21:9 the church is referred to as the bride of Christ. Christ is the bridegroom and the church is the bride. This view holds that the 12 stars symbolize the 12 apostles. Rather than thinking in the past to Mary literally bringing Jesus into the world, or the Jewish system supplying the bloodline for Christ; we need to think of the church as the woman who, through evangelism and preaching, is presenting Jesus to the world.

D. The church is pictured as a bright and radiant woman in contrast to the “great harlot” of immorality in chapter 17.

E. The woman represents the true church, and those who are faithful to Christ.

Verse 2

2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

A. She, the woman, gave birth to a child.

B. Most commentators agree that the child is Jesus. Satan will do whatever he can to stop Christ from being preached in the world.

C. Bringing Christ to the world can be painful. It can result in imprisonment, suffering and even death. The gospel is being spread today, not in comfort, but in pain and anguish.

Verse 3

3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

A. John next sees the fiery red dragon. This dragon is also called the devil, and Satan, in verse 9.

B. There is no dispute about this. John clearly calls this dragon, Satan.

C. You will soon meet his allies - the beast from the sea, the beast from the earth, the great harlot, and the false prophet. All of these are subject to the dragon. He is clearly in charge.

Verse 4

4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

A. The great dragon is seen as having a long tail. The dragon knocked a third of the stars out of heaven and threw them to the earth.

B. These stars must represent the people who are now loyal to Satan. Remember the “third part” is not a literal number. It represents the spiritual part of man. Satan has the ability to destroy the spiritual part of man.

Verse 5

5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

A. Satan knew that Christ was coming. He tried to stop His birth.

B. Think about the times when the lineage of Christ was hanging by a thread.

1. Haman almost carried out a plot to kill all Jews in the time of Esther.

2. At the time of Athalia, the queen who killed all her family, EXCEPT a six-month old baby named Joash.

3. Just as Jesus was to be born, Mary and Joseph had to make a difficult trip to Bethlehem. Jesus had to be born in a stable.

4. By creating insurrection, Jesus was arrested and executed at Calvary.

C. At each of these times, the coming of Christ was threatened. Satan tried to prevent the church from bringing Christ to the world.

D. When Christ was raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven, Satan turned his attention to the woman (the church) that was preaching Christ. This helps us understand why the church was being persecuted. The attack on the church was Satan’s way to get back at Christ.

Verse 6

6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

A. The woman (the church) flees into the wilderness. This seems to correspond to the killing of the two witnesses in 11:7-11.

B. God will always protect His family. There is a parallel with the children of Israel leaving the persecution of Egypt and going into the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land. So must Christians, as we come out of great tribulation (sin) and head for heaven, we must go through the wilderness. The scene described here is the church in the wilderness. The church is in the world, but not of the world.

C. The 1,260 days is equal to the 42 months, and 3 ½ times. God will feed, protect and care for the church, even under persecution. The period of time represents the “church age” or the entire Christian era. I do not believe that this is a literal period of years.

Verse 7

7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,

A. War in heaven - As Satan tried to invade heaven and destroy Christ; Michael and his angels meet him. Michael is the fighting archangel.

B. This is not a historical account of the origin of Satan. There are several theories about where Satan came from. This text does not deal with the origin.

C. The war described here is the time that Satan lost power over people. He could no longer posses people as he did during the ministry of Christ. Until Jesus’ death on the cross there was no forgiveness of sins. Now that Jesus died for all men, Satan lost his control over us.

D. Does Satan still have power? Yes. He still is active. He still seeks to tempt, lead into sin, and cause us to lose faith. But, we have the power to resist. We can resist Satan and he will flee from us. ( Jam_4:7 ) Satan seeks to devour us but we can resist. ( 1Pe_5:8-9 )

Verse 8

8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.

A. Satan did not win. He was not given any power to control people.

B. The devil no longer has control over us.

C. This does not mean that we will never be tempted. It does mean that as long as we remain faithful to our Lord and follow His teachings and commands, the devil cannot touch us.

Verse 9

9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

A. This verse makes clear that the dragon in this vision is Satan. He and his angels are now limited in what they can do, where they can go, and what power they can exercise.

B. The earth is not the planet earth, the physical earth. Earth is used as opposite of heaven. If one is not in heaven, he is on the earth.

C. The earth represents the dwelling place of sin, Satan and his followers. Heaven is the dwelling place of Christians, the location of Jesus and His followers.

Verse 10

10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

A. The time that Satan is cast out of heaven is the time that salvation came to humanity. This is the death on the cross.

B. Christ now has the power. ( Mat_28:18 ; Rom_1:4 ) Christ overcame all enemies, including death. The last enemy was Satan, himself. ( 1Jn_3:8 )

C. Satan has been limited in his power. Do not be afraid. Satan can kill your body, but he can’t harm your soul. ( Mat_10:28 )

D. Those being accused night and day by Satan are referred to as our brethren.

Verse 11

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

A. These brethren have overcome Satan. How is this possible?

 By the blood of the Lamb

 By faithfulness in their testimony

 By putting Christ above their personal safety.

B. You will remember the letters to the seven churches gave promises to those who overcome. The word “overcome” means, do not give in, or give up. Remain faithful to Christ and His church. Do not abandon the faith even if it means your death. ( Rev_2:10 )

Verse 12

12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

A. All the church should rejoice that Satan has been restricted. We can win. Satan cannot defeat us without our consent and approval.

B. There is also a warning. Satan comes to attack the church because:

1. He is angry. He has been defeated and is upset.

2. He knows that his time is short. We, from our viewpoint, have a hard time seeing the shortness of time. However, in the eternal plan of God, the time is short.

Verse 13

13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.

A. The dragon sees that he has lost his spiritual battle. Since he tried over and over to prevent Christ from coming, and failed. He tried to prevent the preaching of the gospel by killing Christ, and failed to keep him in the grave. Satan’s only recourse is to persecute the church.

B. There is a human parallel here. When the dog bites you, you kick the cat. Sometimes we will be angry at something our boss does at work, and we take out our frustration on our spouse or children. Satan is angry with Christ and is kicking the church.

Verse 14

14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

A. The church in under the care and protection of God. Similar to Elijah by the brook, or the children of Israel in the wilderness, God will take care of His own.

B. This verse is similar to verse 6.

C. The church is given two wings (two showing strength; wings of eagles demonstrate the ease of escape) and is able to fly into the wilderness.

D. God cares for the church during this “time and times and half a time” (3 ½ times). It should be clear that these terms are used interchangeably.

Verse 15

15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.

A. Satan is at work seeking to persecute and destroy the church.

B. One of his methods of destroying the church is the use of the flood from his mouth.

C. The Word of God is the water of life. The water from the mouth of Satan, the deceiver and liar, must be false teachings, lies and deceptions. Satan can harm the church by getting Christians to argue over false teachings that would lead some astray.

D. When we argue, fuss, and disagree with each other, we are NOT taking Christ to the world. Satan wins. When we are feuding with each other over issues like:

1. One cup vs. individual communion cups

2. Eating in the church building, having social occasions like a wedding or funeral in the building, having a kitchen or fellowship area

3. How to care for orphans - church support of an organization

4. Churches cooperating in works like evangelism on TV

E. Jesus said it very clearly in Joh_13:35 . If we love one another, if we are united, Satan is helpless. If we are fussing, feuding, arguing with each other, Satan is delighted.

Verse 16

16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

A. In some way the earth (dwelling place of Satan) is helping the church. How does this happen?

B. I believe that this means that there are people, though not Christians, who are doing things to make the existence and survival of the church easier. For example, some denominational people, have not obeyed the gospel fully, but believe and teach some parts of the gospel message. Many denominational preachers have preached many moral truths. They have preached the message of the love of God, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. There are many teaching the inspiration of the Bible. All of these people make our preaching the truth easier. They are helping us, even though they are of the earth (not Christians).

Verse 17

17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

A. Satan is angry. He feels he is losing control. He is venting his anger at the church.

B.“The rest of her offspring (seed)” is defined as Christians. Jesus was the seed of Abraham. ( Gal_3:16 ) Christians are the seed of Abraham. ( Gal_3:29 ) As Christians, we are the rest of the offspring. Paul taught Timothy, who taught others, who passed it on to others, who are able to teach others. ( 2Ti_2:2 ) This was God’s plan as Jesus commanded in Mat_28:19-20 . Teach the converts all things that Jesus commanded.

C. If you keep the commandments, you are the object of Satan’s wrath. If you are faithful in the testimony of Jesus Christ, you are the object of Satan’s wrath. In 2Ti_3:12 is a warning that the godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

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Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 12". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-12.html. 2021.