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Bible Commentaries

Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 12

Verses 1-2

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY OF MAIN SYMBOLS

The Woman, crowned with 12 stars is THE TRUE CHURCH

The Child, she brings into the world is CHRIST

The Dragon--(The first enemy of the church) is SATAN, THE DEVIL

The devil is cast into the earth and seeks to destroy Christ.

When the devil failed to destroy the infant Christ at Bethlehem, and at the temptation, and at Calvary he continues his attack against the woman and her children (that is, against the church and her members--Satan seeks to destroy the Christ in the church). This attack continues for the whole period of the church on earth. (From Pentecost of Acts 2:1-47 until the final coming of Christ). And in a strange way, as the earth swallowed up the river of persecution, so the universe is ultimately on the side of goodness. And during this whole period of the Christian dispensation the true inner life of Christians who are sealed by God’s Holy Spirit is protected even though their bodies may be killed.

John had no doubts about the reality of the devil as the chief enemy of Christians and the church. Modern man finds it difficult to accept John’s teaching that the devil is man’s main foe. The devil has won a major victory when he creates in man the idea that "the devil doesn’t exist."

Someone, looking at the strifes and strikes and wars on earth wrote these lines:

"Men don’t believe in the devil now as their fathers used to do. They’ve opened the doors of the broadest creed and let his majesty through. There isn’t a print of his cloven foot or a fiery dart of his bow To be found in earth or air today--for the world has voted so. But who is it mixed the fatal draught that palsies heart and brain? Who loads the bier of each passing year with ten hundred thousand slain? Who blights the bloom of the land today with the fiery breaths of hell If the devil isn’t, and never was? Won’t somebody rise and tell? We’re told that he does not go about as a roaring lion now, But how do the frauds and crimes of a single day spring up? And who shall we hold responsible for the everlasting row To be found in home, industry, and state to earth’s remotest bound, If the devil, by unanimous vote, is nowhere to be found? The devil is fairly voted out; so, of course, the devil is gone. But simple folks would like to know--WHO’S CARRYING HIS BUSINESS ON?’

1. The woman and the child, verses 1 and 2.

John saw a vision of a woman clothed with the light of the sun. Her crown of 12 stars suggests that she is the true church which is the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Her pains in giving birth to the child is a picture of the church fulfilling her destiny even in pain and suffering to bring forth Christ to the world.

Verses 3-6

2.

The Dragon--THE FIRST ENEMY OF THE CHURCH. verses 3-6.

Verse 3.

RED in color--blood and symbol of destruction. THIS DRAGON IS THE DEVIL. (see verse 9). He inspires all persecution of the church, "He has seven heads," he seems to have perfect and complete wisdom, power and authority. His "ten horns," a symbol of power--reference to the devil as "the prince of this world."

Verse 4.

The figure of the casting down of the stars is taken from Daniel 8:10. The third part swept down corresponds with the third part named in the first four trumpets of chapter 8. If we take these "STARS" to be earthly rulers cast down from heights of possibilities of good to become lives enslaved by evil we possibly have the truth depicted by John here. "And the dragon stood before the woman to devour her child when she brought it forth." The devil is always watchful to seek to destroy the good and Christ. e. g., Herod seeking to destroy the infant Jesus, and the assault made on Him after His baptism, of the struggle in Gethsemane as Jesus faced the Cross. But surely John’s meaning is wider still! It is the aim of the devil to destroy the Christian life. He tries to destroy the presence of Christ in every Christian’s life. Jesus said, "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." While the dragon had seven heads yet he lacked complete and perfect wisdom and power for he lost the real battle forever when he lost the struggle with Christ.

Verse 5.

THE SAVING OF THE CHILD The child which the woman bore was destined "to rule all the nations with a rod of iron," Psalms 2:9 forecast this to be the work of the Messiah. The woman’s child here is Christ. The catching up of the child out of the reach of the dragon must refer not only to His ascension but also to the fact that throughout all events of His 30 years Jesus was continually delivered from all attacks made upon Him. What John is saying here is that God saved and protected Christ--and that GOD DOES THE SAME FOR CHRIST’S PEOPLE IN EVERY AGE. It is not merely the INFANT Jesus but it is also CHRIST IN THE CHURCH whom the devil hates and attacks. Wherever CHRIST IS BORN IN ANY BELIEVER--wherever the Christ is preached, there this "dragon" is found. John is telling us that these two forces will always be in conflict in all ages--the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the devil.

Verse 6.

THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS The flight of the woman into the wilderness, and her fortunes there, is described in verses 13-17. This verse merely states that God provided a refuge for her. The woman--that is THE CHURCH has a place provided during her wilderness stay of "1260 days"--the same period as that of the work of THE TWO WITNESSES 11:3; 13:5 (42 months, 3½ years) THIS IS THE WHOLE PERIOD OF THE CHURCH’S WITNESS ON EARTH.

Verses 7-9

Verses 7-9

SATAN--THE ENEMY Whatever may be mysterious about the war in heaven it is clear that the reference is to the defeat of the devil by Christ. It Is Christ’s victory of Bethlehem, Calvary, and Olivet, which is referred to here. Note Jesus’ words in John 12:31-32. "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself," John 14:30 "The ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over Me;" John 16:11 "The ruler of this world is judged." (The name "Michael" means "Who is like god."). From this scripture John Milton drew his "Paradise Lost" the greatest religious epic poem in English literature--the casting out of evil powers, but cast out into the earth still to persecute the woman (the church).

Verses 10-12

Verse 10-12

PRAISING THE CONQUEROR These words are like the doxology at the end of The Lord’s Prayer. "Now is come the kingdom"--but the full EXTENSION of this kingdom is still to come. Christ has entered heaven as conqueror. The accuser is cast down. The dragon has received his death wound, he has been cast down, his wrath is only for "a short time" (verse 12). Tribulation for the woman (the church) is only for the period of verse 6--THE PRESENT CHRISTIAN AGE.

Verses 13-17

Verses 13-17

THE ATTACK OF THE DRAGON ON THE CHURCH The dragon, cast out of heaven, attacked the woman (the church). The dragon can injure the child by injuring the woman. Here is the symbolism--TO INJURE THE CHURCH IS TO INJURE CHRIST--Note here the words of the risen Christ to Saul in Acts 9:4 "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" In attacking the church Saul had been attacking Christ. Ought we to reflect that when we injure our own church by our unlovely pettiness and un-Christlike attitudes even towards our fellow church members we are doing the devil’s work. We are not only injuring our church we are injuring Christ.

Verse 14

states that during the time of her persecution the church is given protection as on the strength of the eagle’s wings. The period of persecution for the church (the woman) is stated as "a time" (one year) "and times" (two years) "and half a time" (half a year). (This is ’1260 days,’ ’3½ years’). It should not be understood that we should seek some historical period of persecution of the church lasting exactly 3½ years. The number is SYMBOLICAL. It is the whole of the church’s persecution. It is not only in ONE age but in EVERY age that God provides in the day of adversity. It may be that in the future some striking fulfilment of this scripture may be seen. Meanwhile let us not overlook its promise for our own age. The enemy is described in verse 13 as "a dragon" because he is CRUEL. In verse 15 he is described as "a serpent," because he is CUNNING.

Verses 15, 16

The dragon having failed to destroy the church and Christ by fierce, cruel persecution, "the serpent" now seeks to destroy the church by a "flood," but the earth swallowed up the flood and helped the church ("the woman"). Invasion and hostile public opinion is often described in the Bible as "a flood", (e. g., Isaiah 59:19). It is common to find rivers which are swallowed up by the earth and taken underground (e. g., Australian inland rivers). Perhaps John’s picture is that the energy stirs up public hostility against the church which sweeps in like a destroying flood, as it certainly did when the Caesars of Rome inflamed public opinion against the church by lies about Christians setting fire to Rome, and public hostility swept in like a flood. "Yet the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river." This often happens. In spite of an infuriated population which has often hurled a flood of lies to destroy the church, still, in the main, "the earth comes to the help of the woman." The earth sees that the church is helping it to do its work for the good of the community, e. g., social work, caring for sick and aged, saving youth from delinquency. In a mysterious way, every devil-born flood of hostility and violence against the church sinks beneath the surface. These floods rise and then are absorbed. The universe is ultimately on the side of truth and right. It is not one nation, one age, which is described here: it is an eternal law.

Verse 17.

THE DRAGON STILL ATTACKS INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS He makes their lives uncomfortable, but the dragon cannot destroy the testimony of those who bring Christ to the world. David Livingstone said "A Christian is immortal until his work is done."

III. MEDITATION--; Revelation 12:1-17

The devil lost the decisive battle to destroy Christ at the temptation in the wilderness and at Calvary; but the devil continues to attack Christ by conflict in the church, in the individual lives of Christians.

But the thrilling message of Revelation chapter 12 is that heaven is made secure by the sacrifice of Christ. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

The devil still continues to attack Christ by attacking His church and her members but evil will have its end. The victories of evil are deceptive and temporary.

We have seen great evils rising "like a flood" in our own day, but they are "swallowed up"--Hitler came, but his time was short. Other evils come--and will go. In the long run the earth is on the side of goodness, this verifies Revelation 12:16. It may be a severe test of faith to believe in our atomic age that all nature ultimately turns against those who misuse goodness; but it is a faith worth maintaining, and it is the faith of Revelation chapter 12; which is also the faith and certainty of the whole of this book.

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Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-12.html. 2021.