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Revelation 12

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Verses 1-6

Rev 12:1-6


Revelation 12:1-6

1 And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; --A "sign" is something to represent or signify something else. This very word shows that the vision John saw in heaven was a symbol of something. Sign is often used to indicate future events as Matthew 16:3 clearly shows. The very language of this paragraph proves that its meaning here applies to the future.

The commentators generally agree that the woman in the vision represents the church. The relationship of a wife to her husband symbolically refers to the relationship of the saved to God or Christ. Of national Israel Isaiah said: "For thy Maker is thy husband; Jehovah of hosts is his name." (Isaiah 54:5.) Concerning Christ’s relationship to the church Paul said: "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church." (Ephesians 5:23.) In verse 32 he declares plainly that in using the illustration of husband and wife he spoke of Christ and the church. Changing the figure slightly, Paul refers to Sarah and Hagar as being the two covenants--one from Mount Sinai, the other from Jerusalem--and says that Christians are children of the free woman. (Galatians 4:23-24; Galatians 4:31.) There is no room for doubt here that the woman represents the church. Paul told the Corinthians that he had espoused them unto one husband. (2 Corinthians 11:2.)

The description of the woman shows that she represents the true apostolic church, as it was originally established, not the corrupt church that was developed later. Sun, moon, and stars constitute the sum of material light; so through the word of God is given to the church all the spiritual light there is. Hence, indirectly Christ’s disciples are the "light of the world." (Matthew 5:14.) Since Christ is the "sun of righteousness" (Malachi 4:2), and the source of all our spiritual light, "arrayed with the sun" probably means the church clothed with Christ. As those in Christ have put him on, arrayed with Christ is a most natural meaning for the expression. The suggestion made by some commentators that the moon represents the Jewish covenant or law seems the most probable explanation for this expression. The moon is an inferior light-shining body--reflects its light; such were the Jewish scriptures. Seeing the moon under her feet would imply their inferiority. Crowned with twelve stars most likely represents the apostles, who next to Christ occupied the most honorable position in the church as leaders. Twelve indicates perfection, and the apostles were the perfect mediums through which the church received her light. The word "crown" here--Greek stephanos--means a crown of victory, not a ruling crown. The apostles victoriously revealed the truth.

2 and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered.--The peculiar condition of the woman indicates a time when the church was to increase its membership, and implies that this vision takes us back to an early day in her history, if not to the very beginning. The success of the church in the first century is found in the New Testament. From that time on, of course, we are dependent on secular history.

3 And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems.--There is no need to worry about the seeming incongruity of a dragon being "in heaven," or just what is meant by heaven, as some interpreters do; for what John saw is only a picture to indicate certain facts or events. This should be kept constantly in mind as the symbols are studied. The word "sign," as in verse 1, shows that something in the future is indicated. The word "dragon" is used thirteen times in the New Testament and all are in this book. In verse 9 he is called "the old serpent" and "the Devil and Satan." Literally, it seems to denote some fabulous, serpent-form creature. Since the dragon is represented here as the deadly enemy of the woman and her offspring, the language appears as an allusion to Eve and the serpent in the Eden tragedy. (Genesis 3:1-6.) But the description here indicates that Satan figures in the events only as an instigator of fight on the church, the dragon being some earthly agency or medium through which the actual opposition was to be made. Plainly stated, the spirit of the dragon is the devil he inspires the dragon’s acts.

The dragon is described as being great and red in color. This implies that his fight against the true church would be terrific and characterized with bloodshed. It is not unusual for fabulous creatures in mythology to be given some unnatural appearance, but there must have been significant reasons for picturing an enemy of the church in such hideous form. Seven symbolically represents completeness and heads indicate power or authority, but there is probably some additional reason why that number is used in this emblem. The full significance of this symbol will be seen only when compared with similar ones in Revelation 13:1 and Revelation 17:3. The word "horn" is an emblem of power and the number "ten" indicates its general or universal exercise. Some expositors explain "heads" to be symbolic of wisdom and the "horns" to indicate power. That, of course, is true in fact as applied to the dragon, and the numbers show the complete and extensive use of such powers. The diadems upon the seven heads show that the dragon was some kind of ruling institution.

It is a matter of common knowledge that the church was established within the Roman Empire, and was therefore politically subject to Roman law. That the church passed through many persecutions and suffered much from the Roman rulers is also a known fact. The natural conclusion, then, is that the first great power against the church was pagan Rome. Elliott’s commentary (Vol. III, p. 15) gives documentary evidence that the dragon became a Roman ensign near the close of the second century. If so, it is another indication pointing to the Roman Empire as the church’s first enemy--in the texts using the word dragon. Another proof that pagan Rome was that first enemy is that John later saw a beast to which the dragon gave his authority (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:4), and this beast had seven heads. Diadems upon the heads would indicate at least that ruling authority was claimed. In Revelation 17:12 the ten horns of the beast are said to be "ten kings." Horns, therefore, signify the power to rule. "Ten" may only mean the universal rule of the Roman Empire or different divisions of the empire that supplied this power. The leading facts are sufficient to identify the dragon as pagan Rome. John saw a monster in the picture, and there is no more necessity for every detail to represent some specific thing than for every item in a parable to indicate something definite in the application.

4 And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:--In the vision John apparently sees the dragon passing through the heaven sweeping down one-third of the stars with his tail. Perhaps all that was intended by this part of the symbol was to indicate what a terrific and powerful enemy the church would have to meet in the Roman Empire. This feature of the symbol harmonizes with the idea that the dragon is represented as a serpent. Since this work of the dragon seems to have occurred before the exaltation of the "man child" (verse 5), it may indicate different rulers that had been subjected to Rome when nations had been conquered by Roman arms, or it could refer to religious leaders who were killed or who apostatized. If this be the proper application, then the stars falling to earth indicated that rulers would lose their places of authority or deny the faith. The third part means not all, but a great number.

and the dragon standeth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child.--As the woman represents the church, the birth of a child indicates increase in the church by the addition of members. Of course, there had been a growth of the church since its establishment at Pentecost. The emblem here then must mean some time when there was about to be a great increase of the church, or when the increase became so influential that Rome felt the necessity of its destruction. The persecution under Diocletian, the emperor, began in A.D. 303. The evident purpose was the destruction of Christianity. Gibbon says it was perhaps represented to Diocletian that "the glorious work of the deliverance of the empire was left imperfect, as long as an independent people was permitted to subsist and multiply in the heart of the provinces." (Decline and Fall, Vol. II, p. 62.) The twenty-third of February was the day appointed "to set bounds to the progress of Christianity," doors of church houses were broken open and volumes of the holy scriptures committed to the flames. (Ibid., p. 63.) Gibbon further says that Diocletian was at length transported beyond bounds of moderation and declared "his intention of abolishing the name Christian." (Ibid., p. 69.) In A.D. 311 Maximin, the Eastern Roman emperor, spoke of the "obstinate impiety of Christians" and readily consented to their banishment. (Ibid., p. 78.) The dragon really stood ready to prevent the increase of the church.

5 And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron:--In the symbol John now sees not only the woman, but also the son that was born. For reasons already presented the woman represents the church. Who or what is meant by the man-child has occasioned much disagreement among noted expositors. Some apply the words to Christ largely because the man-child was said to be caught up to God and to rule the nations with a rod of iron. The following reasons satisfactorily show that the words do not refer to Christ: (1) After Christ’s ascension to heaven there was no occasion for his being rescued from the dragon. (2) The theory would make the church produce Christ, whereas the Bible makes him the founder of the church. (3) In verse 17 of this chapter the dragon is said to "make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God." This language can only refer to members of the church. Then the man-child symbolically represents the increase of the church--those who through the church’s activities became Christians. If there is an apparent lack of harmony in the man-child representing members of the church and the woman the church, it is not a serious objection. Mother and child are of the same nature, and increase in the church leaves it the same institution. However, to use Paul’s allegory (Galatians 4:24-31), the woman may be said to represent the covenant and members the children of the covenant.

The expression "rule them with a rod of iron" in Revelation 19:15 clearly refers to Christ, but the same expression in Revelation 2:27 just as clearly refers to saints that keep Christ’s commandments. This text, Revelation 12:5, is unquestionably synonymous with Revelation 2:27 and not with Revelation 19:15. The word "rule" in all these texts (Greek poimaino) means to "shepherd," not the word (Greek basileuo) which means "reign." The thought is that those who keep Christ’s commands will be able to shepherd or lead with God’s word. A "rod. of iron" would indicate that their dominion would be strong and dependable. Such is the nature of God’s word.

and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne. --Since this cannot refer to Christ’s ascension, it must mean some kind of glorious exaltation for Christians who had safely come through the persecutions. That this exaltation came soon after the decrees of Diocletian and Maximin that Christianity should be abolished is carat the facts indicate as necessary to fulfill the symbol. In the vision the child appeared to John as ascending to the very throne of God to escape the wrath of the dragon. This means that the church with its increase in membership was to be exalted to a position where it would be protected instead of persecuted.

Gibbon says that "the defeat and death of Maximin soon delivered the church from the last and most implacable of her enemies." (Decline and Fall, Vol. II, p. 78.) He means the last of the enemy rulers in that age, for the beast to which the dragon was to give its authority was yet to arise. (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:4.) The sorrows as of a woman in travail had ceased. In A.D. 310 Galerius, the Eastern Emperor, issued hisEdict of Toleration by which Christians were granted the right to worship God and conduct their own religious services. In A.D. 308 the Roman Empire was divided among six contending emperors. In A.D. 313 two of them, Constantine and Licinius, issued the celebrated Edict of Milan in which Christians were given complete liberty. By a victory over Licinius in A.D. 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. By laws and edicts which he issued that were favorable to Christianity, and the calling of the church council at Nice in A.D. 325, he accepted Christianity as the true religion. It is even claimed he became a member of the church. Gibbon says the church considered Constantine as a "generous patron, who seated Christianity on the throne of the Roman world." (Vol. II, p. 273.) Surely the exaltation of the man-child symbol finds its appropriate fulfillment in this acknowledgment of Christianity.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.--John here, by anticipation, briefly refers to what he describes in verses 14-17. See those verses for comments.

Commentary on Revelation 12:1-6 by Foy E. Wallace







The first series of symbols ended with the last verse of chapter eleven. The first verse of chapter twelve is the beginning of the second series of symbols. The visions of this section were a recapitulation of the events of the first series, beginning from the first again, but with a new set of symbols. They cover the same period, a repetition of the same imagery in the delineation of the same occurrences.

The reason for the two series is stated in the headings by which the purposes of the two series are indicated. In the first series, the symbols surrounded the Lamb, the Rider of the white horse--the conquering Christ--with the descriptive emphasis placed on activities of “the beast of the land,” representing the Palestinian persecutors. The second series of symbols surrounded the victory of the church--the conqueror’s Bride---over all the forces of persecution, in a set of symbols which placed the emphasis more fully on the activities of the Roman Emperor, who was represented as the beast of the sea, ‘from whom the beast of the land derived authority to act. It was, therefore, said that the beast of the land worshiped, or “obeyed,” the beast of the sea--meaning that the Palestinian authorities could do nothing without the consent of the Roman Emperor.

The pattern of the Old Testament apocalypses are again recognized in the similarity existing between them and the visions of Revelation. A striking example is found in the dream visions of Joseph, and of Pharaoh in Genesis (Genesis 37:5-11; Genesis 41:18-32), and of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel (chapters 2 and 7). In the visional dreams of Joseph concerning himself and his brothers the symbols of the sun, moon and stars of the second dream represented the same things as the vision of the sheaves in the first dream. The same thing is true of the visions of the cattle and the ears of corn in Pharaoh’s dreams--the successive dreams were visional reenactments of the same events. In the same manner the four beasts of Daniel in chapter seven were symbolic repetitions of the four kingdoms of the colossal image dream of chapter two.

By the same process the first series of visions in Revelation, embracing chapters four to eleven, portrayed Jesus Christ, the prevailing Lamb of God, in multiple symbols of conquering all enemies of his church and avenging the martyred saints, defeating all the minions of Satan. All of the events in this set of symbols were envisioned from the throne in heaven, as introduced in chapter four, setting forth the sending of armies by the King of heaven to destroy the murderers of his prophets and apostles and saints, burning their city and bringing an end to their persecuting power. These visions surrounded, as previously set forth, the siege of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the destruction of the city, the downfall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish theocratic state.

The unbelieving Jews were the instigators of the persecutions. Rome was only a collateral power to the unfolding scenes. Apostate Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jewish state were the objects of the apocalyptic portrayal. With the downfall of Judaism the greatest enemy of Christianity was removed from the path of the church, opening the door for the universal expansion of the gospel. The second series of visions, now ready for consideration, are retrospective--as they reveal the church in conflict with the diabolical powers of Rome, surviving all forces of persecution, and appearing at the close of the vision as the triumphant Bride of Christ, the church, after Babylon the Harlot had fallen in defeat. The victory of the church over these Jewish and Roman persecuting powers was set forth in the imagery of the new Jerusalem in contrast with the apostate Jerusalem. Pronouncing the same judgment on old Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah exclaimed: “How is the faithful city become harlot! It was full of judgment: righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.” (Isaiah 1:21) And again, “Babylon the great” (11:8), “a holy city, turned unrighteous and filthy.”

In contrast the new Jerusalem, the church, as the Bride of Christ, was robed in habilaments of victory “as the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven”--after which divine judgment was pronounced upon the persecuting nations; and the tabernacle of God would be with men, signifying his dwelling place among his people in the new spiritual city rather than the evil persecutors of the old apostate city. All tears of persecution were to be wiped away. The sorrows attending the period of their persecutions would cease, and the church again would set out on its divine mission of making known the Spirit’s message to all men--the gospel invitation.

The twelfth chapter retrospectively begins with the portrayal of the church in conflict with the existing powers under the symbol of the woman and the dragon.

THE WOMAN WITH CHILD (Revelation 12:1-2)

It is generally agreed that the woman was a symbol of the church. In the Old Testament Israel was repeatedly haracterized as a woman, as in Jeremiah 2:32. In the New Testament the church of Christ is presented in the figure of a pure woman, as in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34; 1 Corinthians 10:1-33; 1 Corinthians 9:1-27; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 7:1-40; 1 Corinthians 6:1-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Corinthians 4:1-21; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23, Galatians 4:26 and II John

1. There can be no more fitting description of the church in holy relation to Christ, the Head, than that of the pure woman. True to this figure the vision describes in glowing symbols the character and attributes of the woman, as symbols of the apostolic church.

In Revelation the word heaven was employed to denote governments and authorities. The Lord Himself so used the word in his own description of the destruction of Jerusalem in referring to “great signs in the heavens,” and “stars falling from heaven”- a symbolic reference to the casting down of the Jewish and Roman rulers and authorities. In Luke 10:18, Jesus said: “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” In this language the Lord was forecasting Satan’s complete downfall from his place and power of dominion, which would come as swiftly as lightning, as the result of Christ’s victory over the hadean world by his death and resurrection.

The sign in heaven meant the heaven of exalted dominion and rule--the heaven of the political dominion of the whole world. The “great sign” seen in the realm of authorities and dominions referred to the symbolic attributes of splendor and grandeur which followed, in which the woman was adorned before the whole political world.

The sign in heaven—Revelation 12:1

1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven. The word wonder here meant a sign--a sign was seen in heaven. There are numerous uses of the word heaven in the scriptures. Among the Hebrews it was used chiefly in three senses. First, the aerial heavens where the winds blow and the rains form and the birds fly; second, the firmament where the stars as pendant jewels adorn the sky, and where all the constellations and planets are in orbit; third, the highest heaven, the third heaven, the residence of God and Christ, the dwelling of angels and mansions of the blessed. There are scriptures that use the word heaven in all of these senses.

2. A woman clothed with the sun. The sun is the great luminary that God created and placed in the heavens to preside over the day. The sun being obscured and ceasing to shine were symbols of calamity and darkness settling over nations. In the same way the shining of the sun was used as a similitude of the glory of God. When the Spirit in John, the seer, needed a figure to adequately set forth the glory of the church represented by the woman, he selected the flaming orb of the day--the woman, the church, was arrayed with the sun, the very glory of God.

3. And the moon under her feet. Standing with the moon under her feet was symbol of the exaltation of the church--an extended description of the glorious and exalted position of the church among and in the midst of all the creations, institutions, and governments of man. The symbol picture was most espeoially significant in the Roman world where this glory and exaltation would in succeeding events become visibly manifest to all the authorities of Caesar’s empire. Isaiah the prophet pictured the church (chapter 2:2) “on top of the mountains, exalted above the hills.” The vision of the woman standing with the moon under her feet was the same imagery of exaltation.

4. And upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The stars are the glory of all the luminaries which adorn the heavens. No part of the visible creation exhibits the supreme glory of God so illustriously as the starry firmament. The crown of stars was the diadem of highest glory on the head of the woman-the glorious church. In royalty it was the ornament of queens. Ahasuerus “loved Esther above all the women . . . so he set the royal crown upon her head.” (Esther 2:17) The stars were used in scripture to designate all luminaries of heaven, except the sun and moon.

The twelve stars on the head of the woman is representative of totality, of completeness, of perfection. There were twelve tribes of Israel, representing the whole Old Testament church. There were twelve apostles for the New Testament church. The twelve stars in the diadem on the woman’s head were a complete symbol of the whole church as typified in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.

The woman’s pain—Revelation 12:2

1. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered—Revelation 12:2. A similar figure was used by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:7-8) of Israel in exile. Israel in the Old Testament was said to bring forth children. The church, in Romans 7:4, was said to be in spiritual conjugal relation with Christ resulting in bearing fruit unto God. John mentions “her children” (2 John 1:1) in symbolizing the church as the “elect lady.” The woman here symbolized was the church in trial and persecution.

2. Travailing in birth. In this period of tribulation, the church would produce children in sorrow for martyrdom.

3. And pained to be delivered. During the period of greatest tribulation the church did not cease to bear her fruit; she continued to bring forth children, but in pain and persecution and martyrdom.

The following verses will develop further the application of these verses to the part of the woman’s seed that was martyred--the “child that was caught up unto God”--and the part of her seed, called “the remnant,” or rest of her seed, that remained on the earth to suffer, but not to die.

(3) The summary of the symbols.

The context of chapter twelve yields three major points which must be classified and discriminated in order:

First, the woman was a symbol of the Jerusalem church --represented as “the new Jerusalem,” in Revelation 21:2 at the close of the Revelation, and stands for the whole church.

Second, the man child referred to the martyred souls as “the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb.” (Revelation 6:10-11; Revelation 14:4; Revelation 20:4) The woman’s seed “caught up unto God and to his throne,” who thereby entered into a state of victory over the dragon and his wrath in a distinctive sense. (Revelation 12:5)

Third, the remnant or rest of the woman’s seed were distinguished from the man child, as being that part of the woman’s seed who suffered the trials of the great tribulation but were not slain or beheaded as were the martyrs. (Revelation 6:9-11 and Revelation 20:4)

The woman of this chapter, therefore, must be considered as the organic body of the church--the totality of its members; distinguished from her seed, or children--the constituent members of it, in the two classes mentioned. The text and context will sustain this analysis, and these viewpoints can be maintained.

THE GREAT RED DRAGON (Revelation 12:3-6)

Trustworthy authorities cite the fact that the original word here rendered dragon appears in the New Testament only in Revelation. In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) the same word is rendered serpent, in Exodus 7:9; and leviathan in Job 41:1; and dragon in Jeremiah 51:34. In Isaiah 27:1 the prophet referred to leviathan as “that crooked serpent,” which apparently connects with the serpent of Genesis 3:1 in Eden. In the Septuagint text serpent in Isaiah 27:1, is rendered dragon, and in both Hebrew and Greek texts it is made the symbol of Babylon, the power hostile to the people of God. In Ezekiel 29:3 dragon in the Septuagint was made the emblem of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the bitter enemy of God’s people Israel.

In this chapter of Revelation the names Satan, Devil, Serpent and Dragon were used interchangeably, and evidently personified the persecuting powers hostile to the church; that is, Nero and his successors, in whom the persecutions and the persecutors were personified.

(1) The dragon with multiple heads and horns—Revelation 12:3-4.

1. And there appeared another wonder in heaven. This wonder was referred to as another sign. The other wonder, of verse 1, was the sign of the glory of the church in the symbolic ornaments of splendor with which the woman was adorned before the imperial world.

In this reference, of Revelation 12:3, the sign was in the same heaven mentioned by Christ in Luke 10:18 : “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” It meant his dominion of diabolical influence. The church is called the “kingdom of heaven” because it is the reign of heaven in the hearts of men, and which designates its divine realm. Jesus said to Pilate, “Now is my kingdom not from hence.” The word “hence” means here--his kingdom is here but not from here; it is from heaven. The word “heaven” referred to its heavenly origin and character. The word “now” referred to its immediate establishment in the world. But the heaven of Satan, from which he fell (Luke 10:18), meant the realm of his diabolical influence, and referred to the political authorities, governments and powers of the whole Roman world. It was the sign of an appalling persecution of unprecedented fury, beginning with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, which was soon to burst upon the church; and the sign of this chapter was comparable to the signs of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, thirteenth chapter of Mark, and twenty-first chapter of Luke, all of which contain the Lord’s description of the events of the same period.

2. A great red dragonRevelation 12:3. The dragon referred to Satan, the antagonist of the church, personified in the active persecutor--Nero and his successors--as representative of all that was opposed to Christ and the church. The flame-coloured description of the red dragon was the type of the destruction of war and the bloodshed of martyrdom. As in chapter six the colors of the horses corresponded with the mission of the riders. The horses were symbols of war and the red horse signified bloodshed. So it was here--the red dragon signified the murderous character of these minions of Satan--the Roman and heathen persecuting powers.

3. Having seven heads and ten hornsRevelation 12:3. As in Revelation 5:6, the seven eyes of the Lamb represented the perfection of wisdom, so the seven heads of this verse indicated the perfection or completeness of the universal rule and government of Rome, the seven-hilled city of the Caesars, to which the number seven in this reference may have been an allusion. But it was an evident symbol of the complete power of the ruling Roman emperor. The ten horns represented the unified universal power of the Roman emperor through the ten tributaries of the Roman government--all of which were in complete subjugation to the Caesars of Rome’s seven hills on the throne of which at this time sat Nero Caesar, the ruling emperor. The ten horns, therefore, denoted the ten kingdoms over which the emperor ruled.

4. And seven crowns upon his heads—Revelation 12:3. The seven diadems upon his heads show the regal glory of this dragon. It should be noted that the diadems were not the crown of stars which was upon the woman’s head, indicating the divine glory of the church; but here they were crowns of diabolical power and assumed glory. It is not an exaggeration that the great antagonist of Christ and the church in that era of greatest crisis should appear in symbols of pomp and power.

5. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heavenRevelation 12:4. The tail of the dragon was in the imagery of the sweeping power of the antagonist of the church and the destruction behind him in the wake of persecution, described in the symbol of pulling the stars from their orbits with the angry lash of his enormous tail. It was the vision of the presumptive power of the persecutors of the church.

6. And did cast them to the earthRevelation 12:4. The reference to casting down to the earth a third of the stars of heaven appears to have had application to the part of the political world that was subject to these destructions--Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jewish state. The application to geographical or political divisions could have had no meaning.

The same expression in chapter eight referred to the three woes of destruction, one part each, as noted in the comments on that section. Here the imagery was that of a symbolic portion of the luminaries of heaven being dragged down by the dragon’s tail. It signified his potent weapon in the power to harm in the pending events of the destruction of the Jewish world, represented by the destruction of Jerusalem, the downfall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish state.

(2) The object of the dragon’s rage—Revelation 12:4-5.

1. And the dragon stood before the woman . . . for to devour her childRevelation 12:4. This statement indicated that the object of the dragon’s deadly rage was the woman, which symbolized the church; and her child, which meant the martyred saints to which the woman would give birth in the pain of persecution and martyrdom. The woman’s child was here employed not in a singular sense but in the collective use of the word.

2. To devour her child. The dragon was represented as standing before the woman in childbirth ready to destroy her child as soon as it was born--like Pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 1:16-22), watching to destroy every male Israelite; and Herod (Matthew 2:13), ordering the slaying of every Jewish male. This dragon-persecutor was waiting for the opportunity to send the Christians to their martyrdom.

3. And she brought forth a man childRevelation 12:5. The use of the word man child here is in neuter gender. And it is not singular number any more than the use of the word “mother” when used in a collective sense; and that is the sense in which man child was used here--collectively, denoting that portion of the church, or the woman’s seed, which was to be caught up to God in the martyrdom which followed. That the man child did not refer to Christ becomes evident in the following verses. The expression caught up to God from the face of the dragon would hardly be a fitting description of the ascension of Christ, but it was an appropriate symbol of the triumph of the martyrs who “overcame . . . by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” It further harmonizes with the scene of victory for the souls of the beheaded in Revelation 20:4.

The man child was not a single person but a collective body. It was that part of the woman’s seed which was put in contrast with the remnant, or the rest of her seed, in verse 17. The woman’s seed compares with the firstborn ones of Hebrews 12:23 “which are written in heaven”; and “the firstfruits unto God” (Revelation 14:4); and the “kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

The man child that was caught up unto God plainwas that part of the woman’s seed, or children, who were martyrs-- “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God,” under the altar, in the suffering of death in Revelation 6:9-11; and on thrones in the state of victory in Revelation 20:4. The remnant, or rest of the woman’s seed, or children, remained on the earth to suffer persecution but not martyrdom. It compares also with the account of the two witnesses who ascended up to heaven in Revelation 11:12, and the effect on the enemies who beheld them. (See comments on Revelation 11:12)

It is not unusual in the symbolic imagery of scripture description to characterize members of the church as its children. Examples of this use are found in Romans 7:1-4; Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:23; Hebrews 12:28; 2 John 1:1; 2 John 1:4; 2 John 1:13.

4. Who was to rule all nations—Revelation 12:5. The reason apparently for the interpretation that the man child refers to Christ is the statement of Revelation 12:5, that he “was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.” But this same phrase was used in the language of Christ to the members of the Thyatira church in Revelation 2:26-27 : “He that overcometh . . . to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.” The rod of iron was the symbol of the impact of the gospel on the pagan world through the victory of the church, resulting from their persecutions. It signified the inexorable character of the law of the gospel in retribution and reward. It was by teaching and practice that those who should overcome all oppression would rule with Christ, and thereby execute his unfailing law as with a rod of iron. (See comments on Revelation 2:26-27 and in GOD’S PROPHETIC WORD, p. 192.)

(3) The woman’s flight into the wilderness—Revelation 12:6.

1. And the woman fled into the wilderness. The context of these visions surrounded the events prior to and including the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the church in Judea by onslaught of persecution. Jesus foretold such a flight in his description of the destruction of Jerusalem in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. This cannot be considered an application too light or limited or unimportant for this vision. The portent was tremendous. It was of extremely ominous and terrible proportions. In the Lord’s warnings and in his own forebodings he exhorted them to pray that the flight might not come at a time when hindrances to the flight could not be overcome, and the difficulties of escape would be insurmountable i.e. to the woman with child, who could be greatly handicapped in flight; in the winter when the cold weather would add to suffering and misery; on the sabbath day, when due to the Jewish observance of the sabbath the exits of the city would be closed, its gates locked, barring an expeditious flight, and they would find themselves entrapped. (See GOD’S PROPHETIC WORD, p. 336-337) The period of escape from Jerusalem after the city was alerted would be so short that the Lord warned the one on the housetop not to come down to enter his house for even clothing or food; and the laborer in the field not to return to his house for such purpose, for the same reason.

Describing the horrors of the siege Jesus called it “the tribulation of those days; and quoted the prophecy of Daniel 12:11 on “the abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15) as being fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. During the siege one million one hundred thousand people perished.

All the houses and underground chambers were filled with perishing bodies; famishing people ate the putrified flesh of human corpses; mothers ate the flesh of their own babies. Outside the besieged city the expatriated race of Jews throughout the empire were slaughtered. In his chronicles on the destruction of Jerusalem Josephus, the eye-witness historian, verifies the declaration of our Lord in Matthew 24:21 : “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Since the Lord Himself declares that no event of the future could exceed the tribulation, there can be no reason to search for events in later history, or to engage in speculation on events of future history to fulfill the identical symbolic descriptions of Revelation. The signs and symbols of Revelation were but the extensions of the twenty- fourth chapter of Matthew, spoken by the Lord Himself in Matthew’s record and extended by his servant John in the visions of Revelation.

In this chapter 12, verse 6 of Revelation, John stated that “the woman (the church) fled into the wilderness” This was precisely what Jesus commanded his disciples to do. When the signs which he had set forth should appear Christians in Jerusalem and Judea were to make hasty their flight. In Matthew 24:33 Jesus said to them: “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” In the parallel record of Luke 21:20, He said, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh”--and they did know it. In Matthew 24:16 the Lord said, “Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.” In Luke 21:21, the parallel adds, “And let them which are in the midst of it (Jerusalem) depart out"--and they did, they departed and fled.

As generally known, Josephus was an eyewitness to the siege of Jerusalem and the events preceding it. In Wars, Book III, Section 3, page 3, he relates that after the armies of Cestius Gallius, Roman general, had besieged Jerusalem, they withdrew--and in this interval the disciples fled, according to the Lord’s admonition. The historian Josephus was an unbeliever and admitted his inability to account for the cessation, but declared it was nevertheless a fact. All who believe the statements of the Lord in Matthew twentyfour, Mark thirteen and Luke twenty-one, know and understand the why-it was the Lord’s doing.

Another later historian, Eusebius, whose history bears date of 324 A. D., states in Book III, Section 3, page 3, that the church in Jerusalem, by divine revelation, fled to the mountain country of Pella, beyond the Jordan, which according to Josephus was largely a desert, mountain region. The Lord of the descriptions and signs of Matthew’s record of the destruction of Jerusalem is the Lord of the portrayals and symbols of Revelation. There is no difference in the command for all the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea to flee to the desert region of Pella, in the record of Matthew and Luke, and the statement in Revelation, chapter 12:6, that she fled into the wilderness.

2. To a place prepared of God. The disciples’ flight was to a place where Jesus had directed them: “Let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.” But Revelation states that the woman fled to “a place prepared of God.” The place where Jesus commanded is the place that God prepared. The descriptions are parallel.

Furthermore, Jesus said in Matthew 24:34 : “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” All of the signs of Matthew 24:1-51 are above verse 34. Jesus said they were all fulfilled in the generation of people who heard his words. (For further discussion on the destruction of Jerusalem, see GOD’S PROPHETIC WORD, pp. 246-260.) It is so with the symbols of Revelation. Jesus said to the disciples in Luke 21:31-32 : when "ye see” and “know ye”; and “I say unto you." His emphasis was on the fulfillment of the signs in events of their own lives. The parallel in Revelation is verse 3 of chapter 1: “Blessed is he that readeth (the one who read it to the churches); and they that hear (heed) the words; and they that keep (remember and observe); for the time is at hand.” If the time of these things was so remote as to be yet future, there was no point in this exhortation for them, and no application to them. As the signs of Matthew 24:1-51 were fulfilled in that generation of living people, so the symbols of Revelation were fulfilled in the experiences of the existing churches.

3. That they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. Here is an instance of a literal period of time, a specific date, introduced into a figurative and symbolic context. There is another identical example of a specific date connected with the context of prophetic language. In the seventh chapter of Isaiah it was prophesied that the ten tribes would cease. Ephraim was forming an alliance against Judah. The prophet said it would not stand, that Ephraim would be broken, cease to be a separate people, and become extinct as a nation. In fulfillment of it they went into captivity and never came out one people again.

Now, read the prophecy of specific time period and historical dates from Isaiah 7:1-25. Notice verses 5 to 8: “Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.”

The prophet stated that “in threescore and five years (sixty-five years) shall Ephraim be broken that it be not a people.” The date of this prophecy is 733 B. C., according to such authorities as Wordsworth, Adam Clarke and Pulpit Commentary. The event prophesied was fulfilled in 669 B. C.--exactly sixty-five years later. The date of Ephraim’s decease was linked with the prophecy that the invasion of Judah by Samaria would fail. That invasion did fail. The prophet said Ephraim would cease to be a people. Ephraim did cease to be a people. It all occurred within the "threescore and five years,” between 733 B.C. and 669 B.C.--the specific time period and date. (For further discussion of Isaiah 7:5-8 see GOD’S PROPHETIC WORD, p. 409.)

The context yields the same exact computation of a thousand two hundred and threescore days of the woman’s flight into the wilderness. It was the same period of “the forty and two months” of the preceding chapter eleven-- the same mathematical time period in which Jerusalem, “the holy city” was trodden “under foot forty and two months.” In the record of Luke 21:24, this period of the treading under foot of Jerusalem was limited by the phrase “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” It was the same period as the “forty and two months” of Revelation 11:3, and the thousand two hundred and threescore days of chapter 12:6. The specific mathematical period designated, historically verified, follows this order:

Emperor Nero delivered the mandate for the siege of Jerusalem to Vespasian, his imperial officer, in the month of February A. D. 67 when the war against Judea was declared. This was the beginning of the period which ended in August A. D. 70, when the city of Jerusalem was razed, ravished and destroyed; the temple was desecrated and demolished, bringing an end to Judaism and the Jewish state.

This exact computation is attested, as mentioned previously, in the authoritative works of Jewish Testimonies, Volume VIII, by Lardner, and Wars of Jews, Volume VII, by Josephus. No further evidence is necessary. As in Isaiah’s prophecy, the end of the twelve tribes was a specific mathematical period of sixty five years-so the time period covering the flight of the woman into the wilderness was chronological--the forty-two months or twelve hundred and sixty days in which Jerusalem was besieged. There is no need to look farther away for the fulfillment of these apocalypses. Every effort to bring them down through medieval history and “the dark ages” has been anachronistic and impossible. But assigning Revelation to the same period as all the other epistles of the New Testament, all of which were written before the impending trial and tribulation and distress, lends coherency and harmony to its apocalyptic delineations.

Commentary on Revelation 12:1-6 by Walter Scott



Revelation 12:1-2. — And a great sign was seen in the Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and being with child she cried (being) in travail, and in pain to bring forth. We have already remarked that chapters 12, 13, and 14 form one connected prophecy. We regard this section as one of preeminent interest to prophetic students. An intelligent understanding of it will enable anyone of devout mind to grasp in the main the prophetic situation. What a sweep! From the birth of Christ (Romans 12:5) till He treads the winepress of God’s wrath (Revelation 14:20) — a sweep of two thousand years more or less! From the weakness of the infant to the manifestation of His almighty power in judgment. And this marvellous history is comprised in symbol and word within the compass of fifty-five verses.

Revelation 12:1“A great sign was seen in the Heaven,” not wonder,“ as in the Authorised Version. A “wonder” is a surprise. A “sign” has a meaning, and points to a definite subject or object (Revelation 15:1). The adjective great is used six times in the chapter, which is one of great subjects. The first of these in order, but not in greatness, is a woman. The Man-Child is the pre-eminent subject of the chapter. The woman is not in Heaven actually, but on earth. The sign only is there. Why in “the Heaven,” for her greatness and sorrow are on earth? It is that God’s thoughts and purposes about her in His dwelling-place, “the Heaven,” might be known. It is history read and known in Heaven, in the light of God’s presence.

Revelation 12:1A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” There are four representative women in the Apocalypse, each of whom is the expression of a corporate body of persons or a system. (1) Jezebel (Revelation 2:20), or the papal system. (2) The woman invested with the fulness of governmental authority (Revelation 12:1), or Israel. (3) The great harlot (Revelation 17:1), or the future, corrupt and apostate professing Church. (4) The Bride, the Lamb’s wife (Revelation 19:7), the Church glorified in Heaven. The celestial luminaries sun, moon, and stars are seen in their assembled glory. A complete system of government is thus presented. All authority supreme as the sun, derived and subordinate as the moon, and lesser lights and rulers as the stars, center in the woman. She has, too, royal dignity, as the crown on her head signifies. But why twelve stars? The undoubted reference is to Joseph’s dream (Genesis 37:9), in which the future glory of Israel, of the twelve tribes, is symbolized. (It is not a safe principle to apply the symbology of the ancients to the interpretation of prophetic imagery. Owing to their numerous and dissimilar religious systems, in all of which hieroglyphic and symbol were largely employed, frequently in the expression of exactly opposite ideas, there can be no certainty in applying their symbology in the interpretation of that in the Bible. Scripture interprets itself. Every symbol in the Apocalypse may be intelligently understood by reference to other portions of the divine Word. The Bible does not need the borrowed light of the pagan world. It gives, but never borrows. On the numerals of Scripture the late Mr. W. F. Grant, of America, has ably written; Dr. Bullinger of this country, and the late Mr. E. C. Pressland, and others have contributed a good deal that is truly valuable in this department of Biblical knowledge. But the subject is by no means a new one, nor one confined in its elucidation to modern times. In all ages the science of numbers has engaged earnest minds in its study. Apocalyptic numerals have largely employed the thought and pen of theologians in all ages. The sacred number seven is without question the ruling number of the Apocalypse, occurring about fifty-three times. Its signification points to what is perfect or complete. This number is frequently broken up into three and four, the former directing attention to what is divine, the latter with what is connected with man at large, or generally that of universality. The numeral twelve, as employed in our text, and frequently elsewhere, denotes administrative rule in the hands of men, thus a civil or ecclesiastical polity, or the two combined, as in the true union of Church and State exhibited in Revelation 21:1-27. Twelve is of very frequent occurrence in the Apocalypse. Amongst heathen nations this number was largely employed in administrative action. The history of China, Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc., supplies abundant evidence in confirmation of our statement.) The woman is invested with the splendour and fulness of governmental authority on earth, for although the sign is in Heaven the reality is to be witnessed here.

Revelation 12:2. — Being with child she cried (being) in travail, and in pain to bring forth. The woman has been before us as a queen, now we witness her as a mother. Her glory and majesty in the former relation, her suffering and pain under the latter designation (Jeremiah 4:31). Who is the woman? and who is the child? The woman is ISRAEL. The child is CHRIST. The larger number of expositors apply the vision of the woman to the Church. Now both Israel and the Church stand closely related to Christ — Israel as the mother, the Church as the wife. If it is only seen that Revelation 12:5 applies to Christ, and in fact must and only refer to Him personally, all controversy is at an end. Israel, and not the Church, was the mother of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:8; Micah 5:2; Romans 9:5; Matthew 1:1-25, etc.).

It may be difficult to reconcile the maternal anguish as applicable to Israel with the facts of the case when Christ was born. But however put together these things are in the wisdom of God, and seemingly contradictory (for when was the crying, the travail, and pain when the Messiah came into the world?), yet there is no real difficulty. The solution of the matter is contained in Isaiah 66:1-24 : “Before she travailed she brought forth; before her pain came she was delivered of a man-child” (v. 7). The travailing and pain refer to Israel’s coming hour of trial, the Great Tribulation. But before that great event the Messiah, the Man-Child, is born. The prophet Micah confirms this in a clear and unmistakable passage. After referring to the birth of the Messiah (Micah 5:2), he adds, “Therefore will He give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth; then the remnant shall return unto the children of Israel” (Micah 5:3). The travail of the woman is at least two thousand years subsequent to the birth of the Messiah, and refers to her sorrow in the coming Tribulation. “Before she travailed she brought forth; before her pain came she was delivered of a Man-Child.” It only remains to inquire: Why then is the travail of the woman put in juxtaposition to the birth of the Messiah? First, notice that the present lengthened period of Israel’s rejection, coming in as it does between the birth and the travail, is passed over in silence in the chapter before us; it is a parenthesis, the history of which is not given in prophecy, but found elsewhere of course. Second, it shows the deep interest which the Messiah takes in His people. He thought of the Tribulation, and made certain conditional provisions so as to lighten it many centuries ago (Matthew 24:15-28). Third, at the time in which our chapter has its place the nation is about to pass into its awful sorrow, and the object of going back in the history to the birth of Christ is to connect Him with them in it.


Revelation 12:3-5. — And another sign was seen in the Heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems; and his tail draws the third part of the stars of the Heaven, and he cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, in order that when she brought forth he might devour her child. And she brought forth a male son, who shall shepherd all the nations with an iron rod; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. The next remarkable sign is that of “a great red dragon.” Satan is here before us in his worst character confronting the woman. See Revelation 12:9, also Revelation 20:2, in which the identity of the dragon with Satan is established without a doubt. Why is the dragon used as a symbol of Satan? Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in his cruelty to God’s people, and in proud and haughty independence of God, is termed “the great dragon” (Ezekiel 29:3-4). Nebuchadnezzar is similarly spoken of in respect to his violence and cruelty (Jeremiah 51:34). Gathering up the numerous Scripture references in the Book of Psalms, and in the first three of the greater prophets, to the crocodile, the sovereign of the seas, who is identified with the dragon, insatiable cruelty seems the main feature. The Egyptians regarded the crocodile, or dragon, according to their hieroglyphics, as the source and author of all evil, worshipped under the name of Typho. The colour of the dragon, red, denotes his murderous, bloodthirsty character. This is the first time in Scripture that Satan is directly spoken of as a dragon. The heathen monarchs, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved and oppressed the people of God, and, thus far acting in satanic power, merited the appellation of dragon. But at the time treated of in our chapter Satan is the prince of the world, its virtual ruler. The Roman power is the instrument through which he acts. Hence the title “great red dragon” can now for the first time be used of him.

Revelation 12:3Having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems,” not “crowns,” as in the Authorized Version. What is said of the dragon here is also predicated of the Beast (Revelation 13:1-18. l), only here the heads are encircled with the golden fillet, or diadem, the emblem in the East of arbitrary, despotic power; whereas the ten horns of the Beast are crowned. The heads in the one case; the horns in the other. The seven heads on the dragon must not be interpreted as the seven-hilled city of Rome. The dragon and the Beast are distinct, however closely related. The former is a spiritual power, the latter the historical world power. The seven crowned heads of the dragon refer to the concentration of earthly power and wisdom in cruel and despotic exercise. His ten uncrowned horns point to the future limits of the empire as distributed into ten kingdoms, the government of which he administers. If his heads are crowned there is no need for the horns to be. When we come to the actual history the ten horns or kings are crowned (Revelation 13:1). The simple thought is that the heads of the dragon are crowned, while his ten horns signify that his power is exercised administratively through the empire in its ten-kingdom form. The dragon represents the unseen force behind the empire; hence the diadems are on his heads, not on his horns. His heads are encircled with the golden fillet, or badge of royalty, as expressing his complete power and wisdom on earth, centered, however, in the Beast, the royal power then dominant on earth. He is the virtual ruler of the worldwide Gentile monarchy. He administers its government through its personal head “the little horn” (Daniel 7:1-28), who is but an instrument in his hands. The despotism and cruelty of the empire are due to the fact that Satan is behind it, governing it in the fulness of his power, and imparting his own character to it, one of undying hatred to God and to those who are His.

Revelation 12:4. — His tail draws the third part of the stars of the Heaven, and he casts them to the earth. We have had the deliberative power and wisdom of the dragon, “seven heads;” here we have in his tail the emblem of his soul-destroying influence; in other words, his lies (Isaiah 9:15). Satan is said to be a murderer and a liar. He murders the bodies, and ruins the souls of men. His power is in his head; his malignant influence in false and damnable teachings in his tail. The western part of the Roman earth, the scene above all others of Gospel light and privilege, seems intended in the expression, “the third Part,” so commonly met with in the Trumpets. “Stars of the Heaven” mean individual rulers set in outward relationship with God in positions and places of authority. These Christian rulers and teachers are caught in Satan’s snare, and believe the devil’s lies. “He cast them to the earth.” (The somewhat similar expression in Daniel 8:10 refers to eminent Jewish persons, and is the work of the king of the north in Palestine. What is before us here is the malignant work of Satan in Europe amongst eminent Christian persons.) Their moral ruin is complete. Note the use of the present tense, “his tail draws,” not “drew,” as in the Authorised Version. His work is viewed as present.

Then we have the impressive spectacle of the dragon confronting the woman to “devour her child.” What a lurid light this throws on the history and circumstances connected with the birth of the Lord as detailed in Matthew 2:1-23. It was not the woman nor Israel that was the special object of Satan’s hatred. It was not her, but her Seed which he wanted to destroy. In the early days of Genesis 3:15 the undying hostility of Satan to the woman’s Seed was first prophetically announced. In Matthew 2:1-23 that hatred is shown. But there only the human agents are seen. Now in the light of Revelation 12:4 we learn that the real instigator of the attempt to destroy the woman’s Seed was Satan, the seven-headed, ten-horned dragon. Herod, the vicegerent of the Caesar in Palestine, the representative of the Roman empire, was really Satan’s minister in his subtle attempt to compass the death of the Lord. Here the curtain is rolled aside, and Satan, not Herod, stands fully disclosed as the real murderous enemy of Christ. Herod was a true child of his father the devil (John 8:41; John 8:44). When his plans were frustrated he turned his cruel rage against the innocent male children in the fond hope that the infant Jesus might be sacrificed amongst the number.

Revelation 12:5She brought forth a male son. This somewhat singular expression does not mean mere distinction of sex. A worthier purpose is intended. The moment that Christ is born, unlike every other male child, universal dominion is conferred upon Him, He steps, so to speak, at once into the rights and glories of Messiah and the yet wider range of sovereignty as Son of Man (see Psalms 2:1-12 for the former; Psalms 8:1-9 for the latter).

Revelation 12:5Who shall shepherd (The kings of Israel are termed shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-31). David, Christ, and the Antichrist are so spoken of.) all the nations with an iron rod. There is more than an allusion in these words to Psalms 2:9. The ancient prediction is here reasserted, and that, moreover, on the very threshold of its accomplishment. The “iron rod” in the hand of the Shepherd of the nations is first laid on the guilty kings and peoples of the west (Revelation 19:1-21), then on those of the north and east (Isaiah 10:1-34; Zechariah 12:1-14; Zechariah 14:1-21). He breaks up the consolidated powers of earth, whether gathered against Himself or His people. He breaks the iron will of the nations. His hands grasp the reins of universal government, crushing to atoms every opposing power, shivering sceptres, and crashing crowns and kingdoms till kings and peoples bow before Him and own His sovereign sway. In that day of irresistible might and power, the overcomers, forming a body distinct by themselves, as it seems to us, shall be with Him (Revelation 2:26-27), associated with Him in His rule over the nations. What an exalted dignity! What an ennobling prospect! (see also 1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

Revelation 12:5 — Next follows the rapture of the Child: Caught up to God and to His throne. This, of course, refers to the ascension, forty days after the resurrection. The fact is briefly stated by Mark (Mark 16:19), but is more fully and circumstantially related by Luke, the beloved physician (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11). The nearest and highest place is His. It is sometimes said “The Church is included in the rapture of the Man-Child.” We think not. The ascension of Christ and our translation are always treated of as distinct events. His ascension is a mark of personal glory, one in which we cannot share. In truth the word “ascension” is never used of saints. We cannot find Scripture to warrant the assumption that the Church is embraced in the rapture of the Man-Child.

There are three statements in Revelation 12:5 : (1) The birth of the Man-Child; (2) His destiny; (3) His rapture. Now there is nothing said here about His life and death. His birth and rapture are put together as if no period of thirty-three years separated the two events. Why is this? The reason is that in this chapter we have not history. The historical course of events must be sought for outside this portion of Scripture, which deals with things from God’s standpoint. The moral purpose and aim, as seen and interpreted in Heaven, is what we have in our chapter. The signs are in Heaven; the reality and history on earth. The object here is a twofold one. First, to connect the Messiah with Israel, at least with Judah about to enter her appointed hour of sorrow, Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7); second, to connect the Child with His marvellous destiny, the rule of all nations. Now both these are dependent on His birth, not on His life here, which is omitted, only the necessary links being given, viz.. His birth and ascension. To connect the Messiah with Israel and the nations His life is not needed, and thus it is passed over. It only remains to add that Christ is caught up to God and to His throne, where His claim as the Heir of all is allowed, if denied on earth. God and the throne shall make good that claim, and from thence Christ will pass on to the destined Inheritance in God’s time and way.


Revelation 12:6. — And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has there a place prepared of God, that they should nourish her there a thousand two hundred (and) sixty days. What happened to the Man-Child, and what to the mother, might be supposed to be contiguous events. But it is not so, for just as we have a parenthesis of thirty-three years between the birth and rapture of the Child, so an interval of nigh two thousand years comes in between the rapture and the flight. In fact the whole history of Christianity bridges the time from the ascension of Christ till the woman flies into the wilderness. To make the present dispersion of Judah unto “the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12) to signify the flight of the woman into the wilderness is too absurd to need refutation. Some have, strangely enough, supposed a double flight, as verse 14, in which it is repeated comes after the war in Heaven. Now it is true that there is a break between the statement of the flight in verse 6 and its repetition in verse 14. But the object is to show why the woman had to fly. The dragon cast out of Heaven persecutes the woman, who is then providentially assisted in her flight from the face of her great enemy. The interrupted statement in verse 6 is resumed in verse 14. Between these verses we have the episode of the war in Heaven and the rejoicing consequent on its success. “The first six verses,” as another has said, “give us the complete picture.” Satan’s expulsion from Heaven is antecedent to the flight, and indeed is the immediate cause of her rapid journey. So that had to be explained in order to account for the flight into the wilderness. The force of the term “wilderness,” as also in Revelation 17:3, signifies a condition destitute of natural resources, a place of isolation. The afflicted and sorrowing circumstances of Judah in the Tribulation may well be termed “wilderness.” It is the great day of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), “when all faces are turned into paleness” (Jeremiah 30:6); the awful time sketched in detail by our Lord in His great prophetic discourse on the mount of Olives (Matthew 24:15-28; Mark 13:14-22; see also Revelation 13:1-18, Revelation 17:1-18).

Revelation 12:6 — “There a place prepared of God. Nourished “there a thousand two hundred (and) sixty days.” The repetition of the adverb is not a mere “Hebraistic pleonasm,” as one has said, but is purposely intended to mark the definiteness of the place prepared for her, and where she is nourished or cared for. God provides for the woman both place and nourishment for 1260 days. The same period is expressed in briefer terms as months of thirty days each (Revelation 11:2; Revelation 13:5). But here the careful numbering of the days intimates the Lord’s tender interest in His sorrowing saints. He counts them up one by one, so to speak. These periods all refer to the last half week of prophetic sorrow, the closing period of Daniel’s years, 490 in all. The suffering Jews in Jerusalem (Revelation 11:1-19), and those outside (Matthew 24:16), form one body of Jewish witnesses. We gather, however, that those who witness in Jerusalem itself are probably all martyred, whereas those who escaped to the mountains from the various towns of Judah on the outburst of the persecution survive it. The martyred company of Judah are the harpers and singers on the sea of glass (Revelation 15:1-8). The preserved company of Judah, the brethren and companions of the slain, are those on Mount Zion with the Lamb (The martyred company is not numbered; those preserved are spoken of as 144,000, Revelation 14:3. The 144,000 of Revelation 7:1-17 are a distinct company. The former is of Judah only, the latter of all Israel.) (Revelation 14:1).

Commentary on Revelation 12:1-6 by E.M. Zerr

Revelation 12:1. As an aid in identifying this woman we will learn that she is the one who lived through the 1260 years of the apostasy (verse 6). That was not true in any sense of Mary the mother of Jesus. Besides, Mary was a literal woman and we are studying in a book of symbols. We should also remember that the apostate church as opposed to the Lord’s institution is the outstanding subject of this book, and of course that of necessity is the church of Christ. Clothed with the sun symbolizes the light of divine truth with which the church has been entrusted (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:15). As the moon is a lesser light than the sun, so there are those in the church who are light bearers under the jurisdiction of the church. Crown of twelve stars evidently refers to the apostles. A crown indicates a position of rulership or judgeship. Accordingly we read of Jesus saying to his apostles, "Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28).

Revelation 12:2. This verse describes the mother, but the literal facts are symbols of something that is not literal.

Revelation 12:3. When a birth is expected in a family the members thereof are generally hovering near, impatiently waiting for the happy event. But in the case of this woman there is a being waiting near who is not friendly toward the event. This being is called a great red dragon. He is called Satan in other places and that is because he works through agencies that belong to this world. The dragon of our verse, then, is Rome. Some commentators designate that it means Pagan Rome but I do not believe it is to be restricted to that. However, since both Pagan and Papal Rome had their headquarters in the city of Rome, it will not make any difference as far as this verse is concerned, which angle of the subject we take. The description of the dragon in this verse agrees with the government of Rome with the leading European kingdoms that were connected with it and formed a part of the institution as a whole. The seven heads are so numbered because the city of Rome literally has seven hills on which it is situated. But those seven hills are not important except as symbols of something else not literal or at least not material. They represent the sevenfold power of that mighty institution in opposing the works of God. The ten horns are the same that Daniel saw (Daniel 7:7), and they correspond to the ten toes of the giant image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

Revelation 12:4. Third part of the stars means the men in positions of importance. The reason why only a portion of them was drawn is the same as other similar passages, namely, God has never suffered the enemy to annihilate completely that which he attacks. This dragon is standing by expecting to destroy the child as soon as it is born.

Revelation 12:5. When the child was born it was a man child. In preceding chapters we have seen that the outstanding feature of Rome, as well as of other despotic governments, is the hatred of people who wish to have a voice in their own government. As long as the people can be kept in ignorance of their personal rights, they will meekly submit and be ruled over. But the Bible in its clear method of showing people their personal responsibility in determining their manner of conduct, has taught them the truth about it and led them to notify Rome to keep hands off. But the Bible is not a self-propagating document, hence the church was the Lord’s instrument for bringing that great truth into the world. In symbolizing that revolutionary event the Lord gave the vision to John of a woman nearing the time of delivery of a child so near in fact that the pains of the event had started. The child may conveniently and truly be called "self-determination" in the light of what has been just shown on the subject of personal responsibility and the right to discharge it without the interference of a dictatorial monarchy. The church as Christ and the apostles set it up, taught men not to call any man "father" upon earth (Matthew 23:9). It taught that all men were to consult the word of God for their guidance (James 1:25). That the Lord’s servants are to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), and that means that every man will be able to read and "interpret" the word for himself and not have to take dictation from some supreme authority independent of his own responsibility. When men learned these truths they rebelled at the idea of world monarchies. That is the reason Daniel predicted that the stone cut out of the mountain--the kingdom set up by the God of heaven--was to put an end to world power. Daniel 2:44.) It is no wonder, then, that the dragon wanted to kill this man child. Rule with a rod of iron. This may sound severe but iron is not necessarily harsh or cruel, it means It is strong and durable. Child was caught up is another symbol. If a babe was born that was at once surrounded with dangerous conditions so that the mother would have to flee to some place for safety, some kind hearted friends would take care of the infant. Accordingly, when the church was driven into the wilderness, her child "self-determination," was watched over by the kind Father in heaven to see that it would live through all those years of the apostasy.

Revelation 12:6. This wilderness was the period of the Dark Ages where the length of it is given in words and which is the same 1260 that the other computations give. All through that period the true church was alive but was in comparative obscurity because of the oppressive domination of the institution of Rome with its union of church and state But her child--the spirit of self-determination--was alive and tenderly watched over by an infinite Guardian, and was destined some day to "make his mark in the world" upon the return of his mother from the wilderness.

Commentary on Revelation 12:1-6 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 12:1

Here begins the second and final great division of Revelation. "In it we traverse the same ground once more."[1] Beginning with the Incarnation, we have the efforts of Satan to destroy Christ while he is on earth, and failing in this, to destroy the church, and failing in this, to wage war against the saints. The outline of the chapter is:

The drama of the woman and the dragon (Revelation 12:1-6).

A retrospective parenthesis to explain Satan’s hatred of the woman and her seed (Revelation 12:7-9).

A heavenly proleptic doxology, but also including retrospective mention of past events (Revelation 12:10-12).

The war against the church by Satan (Revelation 12:13-17).

The vision which begins in this chapter has several parts, but, "It does not end until the judgment day has arrived (Revelation 14:14 f)."[2] McDowell entitled this entire second division of Revelation as, "The Conflict of Sovereignties and the Victory of God."[3] We also agree with Ladd that Revelation 12-22 are: "A representation of the struggle in the spiritual world that lies behind history."[4] Although some of the visions are undoubtedly applicable as accurate predictions of events future from John’s time, it does not appear that this was the primary purpose of the prophecy.

Regarding the apostle’s alleged "sources" of the visions here revealed, we reject the nonsense of dragging up from the ash can of history all of the pagan mythology of Greece, Rome, Persian, Babylon, Egypt, etc., and "finding" any origin there of this New Testament Apocalypse. The truth is that the essential features of Revelation are found nowhere but here! The apostle gave his source in Revelation 1:1. It is amazing that some of the same scholars who speak of the "ignorance" of the apostles have attributed to John with reference to this prophecy an almost exhaustive knowledge of the entire field of ancient mythology! There is not the slightest proof that John had ever even heard of any of it. Where is the "scientific objectivity" of those bizarre theories regarding the "source" of these visions? Their source, the source of such critics, will be found in Revelation 12:15. A Christian commentary on Revelation should not read like an anthology of ancient pagan mythology.

And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; (Revelation 12:1)

A woman arrayed with the sun ... It simply is not true that there is anything very difficult about this chapter, despite there being several diverse views of what it means. Rist thought that these first six verses are "probably one of the most puzzling episodes in Revelation";[5] and no doubt for him it was, because he made the woman here to be the celestial mother who gave birth to the Messiah before creation began![6] Such interpretations come from reading too much mythology.

The woman, of course, is a symbol of the "whole family of God" (Ephesians 3:15 KJV), including especially the true Israel of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It includes Christians, because later in the chapter, they are indicated as children of the woman; and it includes the Old Testament Israel, because through them the Messiah was born. This view, with modifications of it, is widely accepted:

She is the one church, the Una Sancta[7]

She is the church in both dispensations.[8]

She is the whole family of Israel.[9]

She is the messianic community, the ideal Israel.[10]

She is the body of the redeemed people of God.[11]

She is the people of God of both the old covenant and the new covenant.[12]

She is the Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church.[13]

The figure of God’s people as a woman is extensive throughout the Bible, and no Christian of John’s day could have had the slightest doubt of who is meant by this glorious woman. Only a very few writers have ever erred on this. Some have made her out to be Eve;[14] and as might have been expected, Roman Catholic scholars have identified her with the Virgin Mary.[15] This latter interpretation, however, is refuted by the fact that the New Testament nowhere refers to Christians as the children of Mary.

Mounce believed this figure was chosen deliberately as "an obvious contrast to the scarlet whore of Revelation 17."[16]

Arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet ... There is no reason to seek specific realities typified by such symbols, because it is the radiant glory of God’s church, from the heavenly viewpoint, that is meant. On the earth, her state is one of lowliness, persecution, and hatred on the part of man; but her true beauty and splendor are represented here.

And upon her head a crown of twelve stars ... These suggest both the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles, supporting the identification of the woman as both Israels.

[1] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 361.

[2] William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 162.

[3] Edward A. McDowell, The Meaning and Message of Revelation (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951), p. 127.

[4] George Eldon Ladd. A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 166.

[5] Martin Rist, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 452.

[6] Ibid., p. 453.

[7] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 363.

[8] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 164.

[9] Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), p. 119.

[10] Robert H. Mounce, Commentary on the New Testament Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 236.

[11] Albertus Pieters, Studies in the Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 154.

[12] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919), p. 621.

[13] Vernard Eller, The Most Revealing Book in the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 126.

[14] G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 160.

[15] George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 167.

[16] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 236.

Revelation 12:2

and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered.

And she was with child ... This verse is not merely incidental. The hatred and opposition from Satan to both the woman and her child already existed before the child was born. Therefore, the satanic hatred could not have been the result of the Christ (the child) at some later date winning a victory over Satan. This is important to understanding later verses in the chapter.

Travailing in birth ... This is a fitting metaphor for the long endurance, patience, and suffering of God’s ancient people (the true spiritual seed of Abraham) who were a despised minority of the proud, secular Israel during the long period of waiting for the birth of the Messiah. At times, there must have been many, like Elijah, who felt that they were utterly alone, and like the prophets must have prayed for God to "take away" their lives (1 Kings 18:22; 1 Kings 19:4). This was a time of "waiting for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25).

This dramatic verse brings us near the time of the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, for the child about to be born was the Seed of Woman, the Incarnate Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12:3

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems.

Behold, a great red dragon ... There is no doubt of who is symbolized by this. It is Satan (Revelation 12:9). The word "dragon" is in the dictionaries of every nation under the sun; and none can question the choice of such a word to symbolize the devil. In this vision, the dragon was presented in a form and appearance absolutely unlike any mythological creature ever imagined. The critics, however, by a process of combination, elimination, and invention vainly try to make out some connection here with a dozen ancient myths, but to no avail. This account is unique. If they could find this in any myth, it would be embossed in gold and trotted out as "John’s source"! Satan is the one indicated here; the symbol is not the principal thing.

There are a number of references to "dragons" in the Old Testament; but even there they are all symbolical. Thus, this portrayal of Satan by such a figure is Biblical and absolutely unrelated to mythology. Such things as the color, number of heads, number of horns, etc., do not relate to anything in the myths of antiquity; but they were designed by the Holy Spirit to present definite and specific meanings, as is apparent later. The similar use of such symbols in Daniel makes it relatively easy to ascertain the meanings here. The heads are indications of great vitality, and also of "seven mountains," as in the case of Rome. The multiple horns are symbols of great power, and also of kings and their successors, as revealed later.

Seven diadems ... These do not symbolize lawful power but usurped authority. "These are not like the crowns of victory worn by the saints (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 6:2, etc.)."[17] A different word is used in the Greek. Morris thought that the color red, so prominent in the description of the dragon, was to identify Satan with the beast ridden by the great scarlet whore of Revelation 17:3.[18] Red also symbolizes bloodshed, warfare, and ruthlessness; or, as Roberson said, "He is red because of the ferocity with which he destroys men."[19] Beasley-Murray’s comment on these diadems is that, "They stand for blasphemous claims to sovereignty, in imitation of the divine royalty of Christ."[20] Lenski said of the ten horns and the crowns that they are symbols of "power arrogated by Satan in his usurped dominion over men. This dragon, the devil, would be God, so that all men might bow before him."[21]

This verse is extremely important to all the remainder of this prophecy. "The first great enemy of Christ’s church, the cause of all the hostility against her, is Satan."[22] This is the character who appears here as the dragon. He has several names (Revelation 12:9), and will appear and reappear in several guises throughout Revelation, before he is finally overwhelmed in the lake of fire. Practically all of the hatred and opposition to the holy religion of Jesus Christ finds its fountain head in this inconceivable dragon.

[17] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 311.

[18] Leon Morris, Tyndale Commentaries on the New Testament, Vol. 20, the Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 158.

[19] Charles H. Roberson, Studies in Revelation (Tyler, Texas: P. D. Wilmeth, P.O. Box 3305,1957), p. 83.

[20] G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Greenwood, South Carolina: The Attic Press, 1974), p. 199.

[21] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 365.

[22] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1082.

Revelation 12:4

And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon standeth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child.

And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven ... Pieters and many other present-day commentators decline to find any meaning here except that of emphasizing the dragon’s size;[23] but, "ancient interpreters took the passage as referring to the fall of Satan, who took with him one third of the angels of heaven (cf. Milton’s Paradise Lost)."[24] This ancient understanding of it is attractive to this writer. It is true that we do not have much revealed on this subject; but all that is revealed fits the interpretation perfectly. We know that Satan has some angels (Matthew 25:41), and that these are almost certainly the same as the angels of 2 Peter 2:4. No less a scholar than Bruce agrees that, "The reference is probably to the angels who were involved in Satan’s fall."[25]; Revelation 12:9 also mentions these same wicked angels.

Standeth before the woman that ... he may devour her child ... The enmity of Satan was of long standing. Through Pharaoh, he endeavored to destroy Israel; and, at a later time, Haman was Satan’s instrument in the passing of a law "to kill, destroy, and cause to perish all Jews, young and old, little children and women, in one day, and to take the spoil of them for a prey" (Esther 3:13). Herod’s murder of the innocents (Matthew 2:16) is another example of the same malicious hatred on the part of Satan. Having failed to destroy the mother (Israel), Satan was alert to destroy her child (the Christ); and failing also in that, his continuing hatred is vented against Christ’s servants throughout the ages. "This is another example of the personal history of Christ being repeated in the history of the church."[26] It is said that Diocletian decided to exterminate Christianity; and Gibbon said of that emperor that, "He declared his intention of abolishing the name Christian."[27] Herod Agrippa I also attempted to do the same thing (Acts 12).

Hendriksen is correct in seeing this single verse as, "The entire history of the Old Testament, the story of the conflict between the Seed of Woman and the dragon, between Christ and Satan."[28]

[23] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 158.

[24] Ralph Earle, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 569.

[25] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 651.

[26] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 311.

[27] Edward Gibbon, Esq., The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in Five Volumes (Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates and Company n.d.), Vol. II, p. 69.

[28] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 165.

Revelation 12:5

And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne.

And she was delivered of a son ... and her child was caught up to God, and unto his throne ... These two clauses open and close this verse; and the whole biography of the earthy life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God is here compressed into nineteen words! The critics have really had a fit about this. Some have even denied that the birth of Christ is mentioned here. Roberts, following Caird, wrote:

John does not mean precisely the birth of Jesus (passing over the earthly life of Jesus and going directly to his ascension), but rather his death, resurrection and ascension.[29]

Despite such views, the pregnant woman, the travailing in birth, and the delivery of a man child in this passage can mean nothing else except the birth of Christ; and the compression of Jesus’ whole biography into such a short space is perfectly in harmony with what the author did by presenting the entire Old Testament history in a single verse (Revelation 12:4). To suppose that the birth is not included here would make the passage mean that the woman brought forth his death and resurrection; because the emphatic statements of her pregnancy and her being delivered clearly makes her the achiever of whatever happened in Revelation 12:5. This therefore has to be a reference to Jesus’ physical birth in Bethlehem.

The consternation of the critical community that John should have produced so short a biography of Jesus is a mystery to this writer; because it is in perfect harmony with all of John’s writings. He left out of his gospel all of the miracles but seven and omitted the actual birth of Jesus altogether. He did many other things that some would have accounted unbelievable. Paul also did exactly the same thing which John does here. In his letter to Timothy, "He passes straight from the birth of Christ ("He was manifested in the flesh") to his resurrection ("He was vindicated in the Spirit"); and the whole passage contains no mention of the life and death of Christ."[30] Thus, this thumb-nail biography of Jesus is in the very best New Testament tradition; and there is no need to make out that Jesus’ birth here actually means his death! What was the reason for the brevity? The movement of the narrative demanded it. How false then must be the conclusion that John "is not interested in the human Jesus."[31]

We have belabored this point a bit, due to the false allegations of some that the apostle John did not write this but "took over a pagan myth."[32] Morris expertly refuted such notions by pointing out that John "described heaven in Revelation 4 with no mention of Christ; but when he came to Revelation 5, he emphasized the central place of the Lamb."[33] That example shows that John is quite capable of concentrating on one thing at a time.

She was delivered of a son, a man child ... Of special note is the double emphasis of masculinity here. Alexander Campbell translated this, "She bore a masculine son."[34] Pieters rendered it, "A son, a he-man, a fierce assertion of the virility of Christ."[35]

Regarding the identity of the Son, our own view that he is unmistakably the Christ of the ages is already clear enough. This is the usually accepted meaning. "A long array of commentators regards this as a reference to the birth of Christ, and we must join them."[36] "The man child is certainly symbolical of Christ."[37] Just who else, in the whole history of the world, ever qualified for this identity as certified in the next clause?

Who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron ... "These words are quoted from the second Psalm, and they identify beyond question who the child is (See Revelation 2:27)."[38] Both that second Psalm and the book of Revelation deal with the victory of Christ over his adversaries.

As Summers said, "Some scholars of the continuous-historical school deny this, viewing the woman as the church, and the man child as the sons and daughters born of the church’s travail."[39] Among those of that view was the late eminent preacher and scholar, L. S. White, with whom this writer began his ministry of the gospel. He wrote: "The child is a symbol of faithful Christians, and the woman is the church of the living God."[40] It appears to be impossible, however, to harmonize such interpretations with the fact of the sex of this man child being so vigorously stressed here. Such interpretations are not actually derived from the text, but from prior interpretations leading up to it. Since the previous chapters have already taken them up to the times of Constantine the Great, or later, "They must find something after the fourth and fifth centuries to which this may be applied."[41]

And her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne ... This clearly denotes the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

How Ellicott and the historical school can regard this as a reference to the elevation of Constantine to the throne of the Roman Empire, and quote Gibbon that "Christianity was seated on the throne of the Roman world," we fail to comprehend ... As for the futurists, they would leave the "iron rod" (of this verse) idle in the hands of the exalted Christ until the Second Advent.[42]

It should be noted that according to this verse, it was God’s throne in heaven to which this man child was elevated.

[29] J. W. Roberts, The Revelation of John (Austin, Texas: The R. B. Sweet Company, 1974), p. 100.

[30] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 200.

[31] William Barclay, The Revelation of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 78.

[32] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 159.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Alexander Campbell, as quoted by James D. Strauss, The Seer, the Saviour, and the Saved (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1972), p. 162.

[35] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 159.

[36] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 367.

[37] Ray Summers, Worthy is the Lamb (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1961), p. 171.

[38] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 84.

[39] Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 171.

[40] L. S. White, Sermons on Revelation (Cincinnati, Ohio: F. L. Rowe, Publisher, 1917), p. 185.

[41] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 160.

[42] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 369.

Revelation 12:6

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

And the woman fled into the wilderness ... Like the old Israel that wandered in the wilderness, the new Israel, the church, must dwell in her own wilderness. The old Israel is a type of the new, as elaborated in my Commentary on 1Corinthians, pp. 149,150. "So long as the Lord is personally absent, the church is in the wilderness."[43] Just as the place of the wilderness wanderings was a place of Jewish safety from Pharaoh (the devil), just so the wilderness of the church represents her place of safety from the mighty red dragon (Satan). There are also many other analogies. The old Israel was fed by God in the wilderness and nourished and sustained providentially. So it is with the church. Also, as their wilderness was a time of trials, testing, and temptations, so it is in the period of the church’s probation. Many fell, but a remnant entered Canaan; and the same truth is projected with reference to the church.

There she hath a place prepared of God ... The great harlot (Revelation 17:3) was also "in the wilderness"; but her place was not there prepared of God. There is a sacred providence that ever watches over the redeemed of earth (Matthew 18:18-20).

That they may nourish her ... God will take care of the church. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against her; and Christ is with them always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:18-20).

A thousand two hundred and threescore days ... What can this mean? Is there a certain time-period only when Christ will be with his church? No indeed! This time-period represents every minute of the whole Christian dispensation. This is given in exactly the same form as in Revelation 11:3; and there it was understood as all of the time between the two Advents of Christ, and so it must be understood here. "It describes the period of this world’s existence during the whole of which the devil persecutes the church."[44] It is also called forty-two months; and someone has suggested that this was the number of the forty-two stations of the Israelites in the wilderness. Hendriksen called this time-period "the millennium of Revelation 20";[45] and we believe this understanding of it to be correct, despite the description of it there by use of a different figure. The saints of Christ are reigning with him now in his kingdom; and Christ already has the authority in heaven and upon earth (Matthew 28:18-20). His rule is not accepted by many, due to the freedom of the will of man; but that does not contradict the higher truth that Christ is truly reigning today in the hearts of those who love and serve him.

[43] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 85.

[44] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 311.

[45] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 172.

Commentary on Revelation 12:1-6 by Manly Luscombe

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. John begins now to describe what he saw after he had eaten the little book. A woman - John sees a radiant woman, clothed with the sun. She has 12 stars on her head. 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 Romans 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. The church is pictured as a bright and radiant woman in contrast to the “great harlot” of immorality in chapter 17. The woman represents the true church, and those who are faithful to Christ.

2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. She, the woman, gave birth to a child. Most commentators agree that the child is Jesus. Satan will do whatever he can to stop Christ from being preached in the world. 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.

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. John next sees the fiery red dragon. This dragon is also called the devil, and Satan, in verse 9. There is no dispute about this. John clearly calls this dragon, Satan. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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. Satan knew that Christ was coming. He tried to stop His birth. Think about the times when the lineage of Christ was hanging by a thread. Haman almost carried out a plot to kill all Jews in the time of Esther. At the time of Athalia, the queen who killed all her family, EXCEPT a six-month old baby named Joash. 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. By creating insurrection, Jesus was arrested and executed at Calvary. At each of these times, the coming of Christ was threatened. Satan tried to prevent the church from bringing Christ to the world. 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.

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

Verses 7-12

Rev 12:7-12


Revelation 12:7-12

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; --After mentioning the flight of the woman, we have in this paragraph a statement of the sources of power, both wicked and good, with which this war was to be carried on. The words describe what John saw in the picture; they symbolically represent the efforts to destroy the true church. According to Daniel 10:13; Daniel 12:1, Michael is an angel of heaven that assists the righteous. Symbolically this indicates that in the struggles the church would be under the providence of God and led by those holding the testimony or words of Jesus. This evidently was designed to encourage the Christians to endure faithfully in spite of all persecutions. Verse 9 plainly says the dragon is the devil or Satan. Just as Jesus operates through his followers, so Satan operates through human agents. In this case pagan Rome is the instrumental dragon, the devil the influencing dragon. Hence, the visible war refers to the conflict between pagan Rome and the church.

8 and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.--This means that pagan Rome was to fail in her war on the church. In spite of bloody persecutions and a multitude of martyrs, the church still survived and won imperial recognition early in the fourth century. The decrees by Roman emperors to banish the Christian name from the earth had failed, as we have already seen. The devil through paganism continued to war against the church. Some forty years after Constantine recognized Christianity as the true religion, the Roman Emperor Julian withdrew privileges conferred by Constantine and was considered by the church as a tyrant. Gibbon says that "the genius of Paganism, which had been fondly raised and cherished by the arts of Julian, sunk irrevocably in the dust" under his successor Jovian; that under Jovian’s reign "Christianity obtained an easy and lasting victory." (Vol. II, p. 521.)

9 And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.--Here we have the direct statement that the devil is the indirect but real power that operated through paganism. John in the vision sees him and his angels cast down from heaven to earth. That represents the fact that paganism, which formerly ruled in the Roman Empire, had lost its seat of authority; Christianity had so prevailed as to overcome that influence. When the Christian religion became so influential as to affect the ruling house, all the agencies that were angels or helpers of paganism also lost place and power.

10 And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ:--John heard a great voice coming from the place where he saw the dragon cast down. Verses 10-12 are a song of thanksgiving for the victory the saints gained over the pagan enemies. The word "brethren" in the next clause probably indicates that the rejoicing was done by the martyrs who had, under the fifth seal, inquired how long they must wait. See notes on 6 :9-11. Those exalted sing a song in celebration of victory. For other examples, see Exodus 15 and Judges 5. The victory over paganism was enough to cause rejoicing by the spirits of the martyrs as well as living saints.

The expression now is come "the kingdom" does not mean that the kingdom had not existed before that time. It can only be that it had come in the sense of prevailing over its enemies--come to its rightful position of authority to exist by permission of the empire. The saints had been saved a tong time, yet the text speaks of salvation coining. Their Christianity had been preserved through persecutions. The authority; of Christ had existed since Pentecost (Matthew 28:18 Acts 1:6-8), yet the passage says it now is come. These blessings had all come in the sense they were permitted to enjoy them in spite of all sacrifices they had made.

for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night.--Satan is here called an accuser of the brethren. This shows that through his agents he makes false charges against the true people of God. Seeing the dragon cast down indicates that paganism as the devil’s agency lost its authority to persecute the church because Rome became, at least, nominally Christian. Day and night shows that Satan’s work against righteousness is constant

11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.--Clearly this refers to a time of martyrs. "Our brethren" who were accused by Satan are the ones indicated. The blood of Christ was not only the ground of their justification, but that which stimulated them to a victorious struggle. The victory of Jesus even in giving his life was, by their faithfulness, made their victory. The word of their testimony means that in spite of their persecutions their testimony to Christ’s words had not failed. They had not loved their lives so much that they would refuse to die for the truth. The supreme sacrifice was made for the church.

12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.--The great voice in heaven which John heard was exhorting those who dwell in the heavens to rejoice. It is true that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God" even over one that repents (Luke 15:10), but another application seems more probable for the verse iii hand. The preceding facts represented by the woman-dragon symbols indicate things that happened to the church and pagan Rome. This is presumptive evidence that this part of the symbol should be so applied. In verse 5 the man-child (seed of the woman, verse 17) was caught up to God. This occurred when the church gained recognition from the Roman Empire. This was the "heavens" to which the church was exalted and furnished to them the occasion for the rejoicing here mentioned. Elliott (Vol. III, p. 33) quotes from Eusebius as follows: "Formerly we used to sing, ’We have heard what thou didst in our fathers’ day.’ But now we have to sing a second song of victory; our own eyes have seen his salvation." This is almost the language of verse 10.

Woe for earth and sea is what the voice announced would take place, not that it was asking for a woe to fall upon them. In these visions the world probably means the Roman world ; earth and sea would mean the woe would come upon the whole Roman Empire. It would happen because the devil had come down--that is, paganism was operating under his influence. Satan was wroth--instigating the Roman Empire to engage in the most cruel measures--because he knew that his time was limited. There are three ways in which he knew his time for action was limited: He would soon cease to operate, primarily through pagan Rome; under the reign of the beast his power was to he restrained for a thousand years ; and at the judgment his influence over the righteous is to end. His career, then, is strictly a limited one.

Commentary on Revelation 12:7-12 by Foy E. Wallace

THE WAR IN HEAVEN (Revelation 12:7-17)

There are several words in the general vocabulary of Revelation, the connotations of which must be understood. These are the words: air, earth, sea, quake, heaven, stars and war. The symbols are employed in the following meaning : air, the sphere of life and influence; earth, the place of the nations; sea, society described as either troubled and tossed or placid and peaceful; quake, the political shaking of the nations; heaven, the governments, authorities and dominions; stars, the rulers and officials of governments; war, the upheavals in the governments and among inhabitants of the earth (various provinces of the empire); and the conflicts between the heathen authorities and the church in the waging of the persecutions of the saints. With this nomenclature defined, the various facets of the phraseology employed in the next few verses can be explained.

(1) The War with Michael and His Angels—Revelation 12:7-8.

1. There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. The war in heaven meant the hostilities which developed with the tributary governments of Rome. Two classes were here placed in opposition--Michael and his angels are put in opposition to the dragon and his angels.

The dragon and his angels represented all of the powers of paganism and darkness. Conversely, Michael and his angels were representative of the truth and the light of Christianity. Michael was represented in Daniel 12:1-13 as defender and guardian of Israel. So Michael and his angels were the representatives and protectors of the woman-the persecuted church. They fought against the dragon and his evil angels by the means of the war between the satellites of Rome, because these conflicts within the Roman empire diverted the emperor’s attention from the persecutions of the woman and gave respite to the church. History verifies this outbreak of wars within the Roman empire during this period of persecution; and in Matthew 24:1-51 Jesus foretold that such wars would exist to “shorten these days.”

2. And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven- - Revelation 12:8. The almost universal belief that Satan originated in heaven with God and Christ, apostatized from his created angelic state, caused war among the sinless world of God’s own heaven, and because he could not be tolerated there, he was expelled to this mundane sphere to trouble and torment all humanity for all time-that is an inherited belief or notion completely out of harmony with the character of heaven. It is a great incongruity. Heaven, where God dwells, is the divine domain of light, where is no darkness, no evil, no apostasy. Hell is the diabolical realm of darkness, where there is no purity, no good, and where light cannot penetrate. The generally accepted view that Satan became a wicked angel in heaven where God dwells, and that he corrupted and recruited other angels for his revolution, puts apostasy in heaven and is incompatible with the nature of the angels of God in heaven.

If apostasy can befall the inhabitants of heaven, in consequence it would render insecure all who obtain that world, in that being subject to apostasy they, too, might be expelled. No sin, nothing evil, can enter or prevail in the abode of the pure and holy in the eternal mansions of God’s habitation.

The passage in Isaiah 14:12 was descriptive of the degeneration of the king: “How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations.” In his degeneracy this wicked king of ancient history, whose depravity weakened the nations, was cut down; he fell from his high place of dominion. The meaning of the heaven from which the Satanic dragon was cast is the same as the heaven from which fell Lucifer, the wicked Babylonian king.

When Jesus said to the disciples (Luke 10:18) that he “beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” he did not mean that with physical sight he had seen the devil as a physical object fall-it was rather the Lord’s forecast that he had foreseen Satan’s complete defeat and downfall from his throne of evil dominion. It was Satan’s own heaven or domain of rulership from which he would fall, and it would come soon and as swiftly as lightning--and it did.

When Peter mentioned (2 Peter 2:4) the angels that sinned, and were cast down to hell, and delivered to chains of darkness, and reserved to judgment--it was undoubtedly in reference to the downfall of certain representatives of the human race in high estate, the era and details of which the apostle left unmentioned and therefore remains unrevealed.

It is more reasonable to theorize that Satan and his devils originated in this manner than to hypothesize that he inhabited and corrupted heaven, the abode of God.

[See notes on Revelation 12:8 for discussion of the “fall” of Satan]

3. And the great dragon was cast out . . . which deceiveth the whole world . . . he was cast out into the earthRevelation 12:9. The dragon and his evil agents “prevailed not” against Michael’s protection of the woman, which he accomplished by the diversion of the emperor’s diplomacy to employ his armies to quell the revolutions in many parts of the imperial world.

The context of this section was a diversion from the main scene due to the side effects of the involvement of the Roman rulers in the revolutions in their far-flung tributaries.

So the statement neither was their place found any more in heaven was a reference to the final outcome, and is not chronological, or in the order of sequence here. The dragon prevailed not--the cause of the woman (the church) which Michael represented triumphed, in the war with heathenism which the dragon represented, and he eventually “prevailed not” but lost his own place in heaven --that is, in the governments which had been used to persecute the church. And, he was cast down to the earth--that is, Satan was cast out of his sphere of influence through the government authorities against the church. He was cast down to the earth--the place of the inhabitants of the nations as distinguished from the children of the woman, the church. The woman had appeared in the same sphere with the dragon in the war in heaven, as antagonists and was represented by Michael against the dragon. In the final outcome of this struggle the dragon lost his place of power and influence--hence, cast down from his high position in which he had been able to deceive the world. Dethroned from his dominion he went in search of other prey, as mentioned in 1 Peter 5:8 --"the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

The dragon in the end was seen as having lost “the war in heaven” against the woman. Jesus anticipated this defeat of Satan in John 12:31 : “Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” This judgment was pronounced upon the dragon in the war against the woman. He lost his place of dominion, but continued to deceive the world, as declared by Paul in Ephesians 2:2 : “According to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” The phrase “prince of the power of the air” denotes a sphere of influence only. Satan has no longer a dominion of power. He is only an influent being who exerts a deceptive influence, an infiltration insensibily affecting the mind and conscience --an inflow of evil.

In Revelation the term earth, as previously stated, designated the place of nations, distinguished from the realm of the church. And air refers to the sphere of life and influence.

Thus having lost his power of dominion, he is now prince of the power of the air--that is, having only an exercise of influence which only operates through“the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

Jesus Christ through the gospel destroyed Satan’s power --he holds no power of dominion over any one. He can operate only through the sphere of influence. The one who serves Satan is a willing servant “through the spirit of disobedience.” God has the power to destroy both soul and body of one who refuses to serve him (Matthew 10:28), but Satan has no power over any one (Hebrews 2:14); if one does not choose to follow Satan, he can do nothing; he has no power to conscript, and no power to punish.

And the great dragon was cast out into the earth. Satan “prevailed not” against the woman, the church, and was “cast out into the earth,” the place of the nations, where he would again in a broader effort seek to deceive the whole world, as distinguished from the church.

And his angels were cast out with him. These Satanic angels included all of the combined forces of heathenism which he had employed against the church, and as “prince of the power of the air,” he continued to operate in the sphere of life and influence through the spirit of disobedience.

(2) The victory of the woman—Revelation 12:10-17.

It should be remembered that with the twelfth chapter there is the beginning of the recapitulation of all the events depicted in the first series of visions from chapter four to eleven. The first series of symbols surrounded Christ the conqueror; the second series encompassed the same events in a new set of symbols and surrounded the woman, the church in the midst of that period of trial. The verses now under consideration set forth the woman’s victory over the dragon and parallels the triumph of the Rider of the white horse of the sixth chapter who was the conquering Christ of the closing verses of chapter eleven.

1. And I heard a loud voice saying, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his ChristRevelation 12:10. This “loud voice” of victory reverted to the chorus of “great voices” in Revelation 11:15; and the exclamation “now is come salvation . . . and the kingdom of our God” was repetitive of the refrain of Revelation 11:15, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” The meaning is that the kingdoms of the world became the kingdoms of the Lord by the conversion of its citizens. It was the anticipation of the world-wide expansion of Christianity through the gospel, after the destruction of Jerusalem, as forecast by the Lord in Matthew 24:31 --and that is the meaning of the statement, “now is come salvation . . . and the kingdom of our God.”

The salvation here meant deliverance of the woman (the church) from the dragon; and strength referred to the source of endurance; and the power of his Christ referred to that authority higher than Rome’s emperor, that divine rod of iron by which the power of Satan, personified in the persecutor, had been broken and by which his diabolical character had been exposed.

2. For the accuser of our brethren is cast down—Revelation 12:10. In Revelation 12:9 it states that the dragon was cast out into the earth--the place of the nations, or the political society. This was not the positions of government authority included within the sphere of the phrase in heaven. In verse 10 the dragon (the persecutor) was called the accuser of our brethren. This referred to that part of the offspring of the woman who were not martyrs, but were like the seer of the apocalypse on Patmos: “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” The emphasis put on the accuser of our brethren by the additional statement, which accused them before our God day and night, indicated the habitual character of the dragon-accuser, that the oppositions of the persecutor would be persistent and continuous.

3. But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives untodeath—Revelation 12:11.

The victors here are not the same company as Michael and his hosts of Revelation 12:7. The dragon had lost that war and had been cast out of that sphere of conflict but continued his opposition to the brethren of those of whom Michael was defender and protector-- he extended his persecutions to the woman’s offspring, or the church beyond the region of Jerusalem and Judea. But as Michael and his hosts had prevailed against him in Judea so did the brethren elsewhere who became the objects of the dragon’s extended persecutions. And this verse commemorates by anticipations the victory which the saints had won on the ground or cause and by the means of the blood of the Lamb, the shed blood of Christ. The further reason for their victory was the word of their testimony-- because of the faithful testimony which they had borne in oral declarations. The high tribute in the praise that they loved not their lives unto death meant that these persecuted saints had disregarded their lives for the sake of their cause; in the willingness to join the martyrs they displayed the fidelity that brought them victory over their accuser and persecutor.

4. Therefore, rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them—Revelation 12:12. The power of the persecutors broken, and the accuser of the brethren exposed, was here the cause for this rejoicing of the heavens--because it had been delivered from the evil spirit of the accuser. The heavens here meant that spiritual realm referred to in Ephesians 1:3 as the heavenly places. The phrase and ye that dwell in them meant that these heavens are the spiritual abode of every faithful soul. (Ephesians 2:6) It is that spiritual sphere of the church in which He dwells to lead and instruct his followers, and in which his power had kept them through their faith in Him and their fidelity to His cause. (Ephesians 3:17)

This benedictory is comparable to the prophet’s song of rejoicing for Israel in Isaiah 49:13 : “Sing 0 heavens; and be joyful 0 earth . . . ` for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” The Isaiah passage referred to Israel of the Old Testament in exile, and this Revelation text refers to the church of the New Testament in their period of persecution.

5. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time—Revelation 12:12. The persecutions which had been focused on one sphere of the dragon’s activity in the realm of governments against Jerusalem were not expanded to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea. The word earth here was used to denote the land of Palestine--as the reference to the beast of the land designated the Palestinian persecutor. The word sea indicated the regions of the empire beyond the land of Israel.

The dragon’s defeat in the first sphere of his war against the woman intensified the activities of his persecutions, and having great wrath he transferred his oppositions and expanded them to the earth and the sea--to all regions where the children of the woman, the objects of his wrath, could be found.

The statement because he knoweth that he hath but a short time was based on the fundamental principle pervading the apocalypse--“which things must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1); and “the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3).The binding of Satan, the dragon, and casting him into “the bottomless pit” were included in the things which in the first chapter of the Revelation the seer announced as at hand, and must shortly come to pass; which things in the last chapter he declared must shortly be done (Revelation 22:6); and quickly to occur (Revelation 22:7); and, once more, at hand (Revelation 22:10). From the first chapter to the last the Revelation repeatedly emphasized the immediacy of the events, removing them from remote fulfillment. It forms a solid argument for the fulfillment of the symbols of Revelation in the experiences of the churches addressed.

The extension of the apocalypse to the medieval centuries, to the dark ages, to the present day, and to the end of time is the greatest anachronism in all history.

Commentary on Revelation 12:7-12 by Walter Scott


Revelation 12:7-9. — And there was war in the Heaven: Michael and his angels went to war with the dragon. And the dragon fought, and his angels; and he prevailed not, nor was their place found any more in the Heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, the ancient serpent, he who is called Devil and Satan, he who deceives the whole habitable world, he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. The scene described in these verses is not spoken of as a sign. The presence of Satan in Heaven is a reality. A war there between the hosts of good and evil under their respective leaders, Michael and the Dragon, is most sure. The statement that Satan has a place in “the Heaven,” not in the immediate presence of God, is received with surprise by many and with incredulity by others; and it is deemed stranger still to speak of actual conflict in the place beyond all others of peace and rest, in the place of

No midnight shade, no clouded sun,

But sacred, high, eternal noon.”

But when the vastness of the heavens is considered we cease to wonder. No child in the Father’s house, no saint there, need ever fear the conflict of contending hosts. But sin was conceived in the heart of Satan. Not content to occupy a creature’s place, although probably the highest of spiritual intelligences (Ezekiel 28:12-17), he aspired to the throne itself. He sinned. He morally fell from his exalted position. But he was not then cast down from the heavens. Other spirits are associated with him in his moral degradation. The blessings of saints are in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3), there also they sit, but in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). Others besides saints are in the heavenlies (Ephesians 3:10); and there our Christian conflict is carried on now (not after death or the Coming — no warfare then) against wicked spirits (Ephesians 6:12). Now, however, the moment has come for his final expulsion from “the Heaven,” and the hosts of evil with him. He has to be cast down to the earth, then into the abyss, and finally into the lake of fire, not to reign, but to suffer eternally, the most abject and degraded of beings. The first step in the execution of judgment upon Satan is his forced dislodgment from above. It is the time and occasion referred to by the prophet Isaiah. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:21). Jehovah will mete out punishment to the sinning angels in their place “on high,” and to the mighty on earth as well. None, however exalted in rank and position, can escape.


But who is Michael (who is like unto God)? This distinguished angel is named five times in the Scriptures (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; Judges 1:9; Revelation 12:7). He seems to be the leader of the angelic hierarchy, as he is termed by Jude “the archangel,” (Scripture does not speak of archangels, only of one, and that in two passages in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Judges 1:9). The Pauline reference is to Christ, the true, real head of angelic power; the other by Jude speaks of that angelic created being who presides over the destinies of Israel. The only two angels who are specifically named are Michael and Gabriel.) and in Daniel 10:13, where Michael is first named, he is spoken of as “first of the chief princes” (see margin). In each of the five passages where his name occurs, and in their several contexts, the Jewish people are in question. Evidently he is the angel to whose guardian care the interests of Israel are committed. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of Thy people,” i.e., the Jewish people (Daniel 12:1). The period referred to by the prophet is the same time beheld in vision by the Seer of Patmos. The Great Tribulation is to be entered upon. But Michael makes it his business to see that Israel does not perish. “He (Jacob) shall be saved out of it “ (Jeremiah 30:7). Michael is a militant angel. The contests between Persia and Babylon were to all appearance decided by the generalship and force of arms of the renowned Persian, Cyrus, the prophetically designated over thrower of the Babylonian monarchy and the deliverer of the Jewish people from their lengthened exile of seventy years (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-4), but it was not really so. The movements of nations, their wars, politics, and social policy are shaped and directed by higher and spiritual powers. There are angels, good and bad, who are constantly influencing men and governments, and of this chapter 10 of Daniel is a conspicuous example. Wars and strife on earth are but the reflex of opposing spiritual powers in the lower heavens. The invisible struggles between the powers of light and the forces of darkness are real and earnest (1 Samuel 16:13-15; 1 Kings 22:19-23), and by the influence of these spiritual beings the world is providentially governed. Angelic agency toward the saints of God on earth (Hebrews 1:14; Acts 12:1-25) is a generally admitted truth, but their action in determining the issue of battles and shaping national policy, and human interests generally, is not recognised as it ought to be. Of course all is under the wise, strong, and controlling hand of God. He is the supreme Arbiter in human life and history. In the chapter referred to (Daniel 10:1-21) Michael goes to the help of an unnamed angel who had wrought at the court of Persia for twenty-one days (v. 13). With the assistance of the archangel the destinies of Persia were directed, resulting in the two associated facts: Babylon the oppressor overthrown, and Judah the oppressed delivered. Michael, too, figures in the contest about the body of Moses. Satan sought possession of the body no doubt to ensnare Israel to worship it, as they did the brazen serpent (2 Kings 18:4). But no human hand dug the grave of Moses. Jehovah “buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (Deuteronomy 34:6). Jude in a few energetic sentences informs us of the cause of dispute between Satan and Michael. Now the contest in our chapter in the Apocalypse is not one between two chiefs simply, as mentioned by Jude, but here the respective forces gather under their distinguished leaders. “Michael and his angels went to war with the dragon. And the dragon fought, and his angels.”


The issue of the war between the contending spiritual hosts is in no wise a doubtful one. Satan and his angels are overthrown.

Revelation 12:8. — He prevailed not, nor was their place found any more in the Heaven. The dragon personally suffered an ignominious defeat, while the whole company of sinful angelic intelligences is for ever banished from “the Heaven.” On the return of the seventy disciples from their mission they tell their Lord, and that with joy, how “even the devils (demons) are subject to us through Thy Name.” That, however, was but the germ of full and final victory over the enemy and his power, and this the Lord prophetically announced when He immediately added, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven” (Luke 10:17-18). Whatever the resistance offered to his expulsion from Heaven, his downfall will be effected completely and instantaneously like a flash of lightning. From the day that pride and lofty ambition entered his heart, for then he sinned, he has not only a place in Heaven, where he unceasingly accuses God’s saints, but He traverses the earth as well on his mission of mischief. He is the leader of the demon host, and of every form and kind of sinful, spiritual agency. The devil is a real person, not an influence, but a living spiritual being. The vision before us has its actual fulfilment in the midst of the prophetic week — about the close of the first half. The treaty made between the Roman prince and the restored nation, or “the many,” i.e., the mass of the people, is respected, and its terms observed for the half of the stipulated period of seven years (Daniel 9:27). But instigated by Satan, the Roman prince breaks the covenant in “the midst of the week.” The scene before us is preparatory to it, and, in fact, accounts for the last uprising of evil, civil and religious, on the earth. Cast down from Heaven, Satan takes possession of the doomed scene, and exerts his untiring energy in the ruin and destruction of all then standing for God. The war in Heaven results in the victory of Michael and his associated angels. The dragon and his angels are cast down, never to regain a heavenly position. Then Satan turns his baffled rage against the woman, or what represents her before God in testimony, i.e., the Jewish remnant on the earth. The Tribulation (which in its range covers the whole prophetic area, but in its worst and severest forms of suffering especially affects Palestine) lasts the exactly defined period of 1260 days. We consider it clear, therefore, that the expulsion of Satan from Heaven and his downfall to the earth is on the eve of the Tribulation, and is really the procuring cause of it.


There are three distinct stages in the judgment on Satan. First, he is cast down from Heaven to earth with his associated angels (v. 9); second, he is confined as a prisoner in the abyss for one thousand years (Revelation 20:3); third, he is consigned to eternal torment in the lake of fire (v. 10). The first two acts of judgment are executed by the instrumentality of angels; the third and final one is an exhibition of divine power irrespective of the agency employed to execute it, which is not named, The lake of fire! There the wail of anguish is never hushed, and the tear is never dry. No ray of light nor gleam of hope ever enters those caverns of eternal despair. Mind cannot conceive nor pen trace the horror of such a doom. Satan’s reign in the lake of fire is but the dream of the poet, and is without a shred of Scripture to support it. There he suffers — not reigns — the most degraded and abject of God’s creatures. How patient is our God, but how sure His threatened judgments! Satan after seven thousand years of active hatred against God, and of hostility to those who are His, is at length crushed, shorn of power and ability to work further mischief, and shut up with his angels to his and their “prepared” doom, “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).


The dragon is here viewed in relation to earth and the human race; hence these four names, as also in Revelation 20:2, in the same order.

(1) The great dragon,” so termed because of his remorseless cruelty. Legend and hieroglyphic paint the dragon as a monster in form and appearance outside the pale of the animal kingdom, a combination of superhuman craft and cruelty.

(2) The ancient serpent reminds us of his first and successful attempt to effect the ruin of the happy and innocent pair in Eden (Genesis 3:1-24). Subtlety, craft, deep cunning are characteristic features of Satan from the beginning of his history in connection with the race. He has ever been a murderer and a liar (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). “The ancient” serpent refers to his first historical connection with the race, and the title “serpent” (We are satisfied that Genesis 3:1-24 is a true and historical account of what actually took place. That Satan spoke through a real serpent seems unquestionable. There is no need of supposing, with Josephus and his learned translator, Whiston, that serpents along with other reptiles of a similar species had the faculty of speech before the Fall, but lost it consequent on its wicked misuse under the dominion of Satan. There are three remarkable instances in the Old Testament of the miraculous use of the lower animals: (1) Speech given to the serpent (Genesis 3:1-24); (2) a certain intelligence and speech granted to the ass ridden by Balaam (Numbers 22:21-30); (3) The great fish which swallowed up Jonah, answering to the voice of Jehovah in throwing up the repentant prophet on dry land (Jonah 2:10). We firmly believe in the exact historical accuracy of these narratives, which, moreover, are vouched for in the New Testament (see 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Peter 2:15-16; Matthew 12:40). The stater or piece of money in the mouth of the first fish caught by the hook (Matthew 17:27) is another instance of divine power and foreknowledge in support of the claim of the Creator over the works of His hands. The creation of the serpent species is stated in Genesis 1:24-25; Genesis 3:1. The governmental curse pronounced on the reptile is noted in Genesis 3:14. Its degradation even in millennial days is stated in Isaiah 65:25.) to his subtlety (2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan, needless to say, is a spirit and a real person.

“He who is called,” referring now to personal names, (1)Devil,” and (2) “Satan.” The two former titles are descriptive of character — cruelty and subtlety; the two latter names, Devil and Satan, refer to the dragon as a person. The devil is an actual historical being, and in the Greek of the New Testament is used only in the singular. “Devils” should be “demons” (R.V.). As the devil, he is the accuser, the traducer, and tempter. As Satan, he is the open and declared adversary of Christ, the public enemy of God and of His people (see Job 1:1-22; Job 2:1-13; Zechariah 3:1-10; Matthew 4:1-25; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Peter 5:8).

The special work of Satan is next stated, and one to which his untiring energy is directed. He “deceives the whole habitable world.” The human instruments in effecting his purpose (Revelation 13:1-18), and God’s judicial judgment upon Christendom, i.e., the habitable earth, are not here named. The prime mover in all is alone before us. By God’s permission Satan deceives all embraced within the prophetic scene (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12), whoever may be the persons employed, or whatever the means used, Satan himself is the leader in luring on the world to its moral ruin. Christianity having been abandoned, God gives up in retributive justice the guilty and apostate Church, and the mass of Judah as well, to believe the lie of Satan, in presenting the Antichrist as Israel’s promised Messiah and king, backed up by signs of a miraculous character. The bait is eagerly swallowed. “The whole habitable world” is deceived thereby. Then, however, Satan keeps in the background; here in the light of Heaven he stands fully exposed. He was the unseen but spiritual and personal power behind Herod (compare v. 4 with Matthew 2:16). He is equally so in the judicial blinding of Christendom by his great satellite, the Antichrist, or second Beast of Revelation 13:1-18.

Revelation 12:9. — He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. The threefold repetition of the verb cast out is meant to emphasise the fact of the ignominious expulsion of Satan and his angels from Heaven. Who these angels are is a question shrouded in mystery. All we know is that they constitute Satan’s militant host, and are cast out of Heaven with their distinguished chief. Satan can then no more enter God’s presence and accuse the saints to Him, nor can his poisonous breath ever again infect the holy atmosphere of the heavenly places. The heavens have to be cleared of evil as well as the earth, and the ground on which both spheres are to be purified and reconciled (Colossians 1:20) is the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:23). How complete, therefore, and far-reaching in its results is the blood of Christ!


Revelation 12:10-12. — And I heard a great voice in the Heaven saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren has been cast out, who accused them before our God day and night; and they have overcome him by reason of the blood of the Lamb, and by reason of the word of their testimony, and have not loved their life even unto death. Therefore be full of delight, ye heavens, and ye that dwell (or tabernacle) in them. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great rage, knowing he has a short time. “A great voice in the Heaven” heard by the Seer is that of the already risen (1 Corinthians 15:1-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18) and glorified saints. In a subsequent vision an angel addressing John says thy brethren” (Revelation 19:10); whereas it is here “our brethren,” language unsuitable in the lips of an angelic being. In the doxology which follows “the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom” are announced as come. But that is as yet in anticipation. As a necessary and preliminary step to the accomplishment of the kingdom set up in displayed power Satan has been cast out of the heavenlies. “The prince of the power of the air ” (Ephesians 2:2) is a title henceforth lost to him for ever. The power of the kingdom having been so gloriously vindicated in Heaven all is announced there as “come,” although not actually so on earth.

The insertion of the definite article before each of the subjects named gives definiteness and force. “The salvation is not that of the soul now, nor even of the body at the Coming, but is a wide and comprehensive thought embracing the overthrow of the enemy and the deliverance of creation from its present thralldom and agony (Romans 8:21). The power refers to the irresistible might which shall crush and grind to atoms all opposing authority whether satanic in the Heavens or human on the earth. Now it is the kingdom in patience, then it will be the kingdom in power. The kingdom” must be understood here in its largest extent, as embracing the heavens and the earth. The kingdom of the Father, and the kingdom of the Son (Matthew 13:41-43), respectively set forth the two main departments, heavenly and earthly, of the vast and universal kingdom of our God and of His Christ (see Psalms 2:1-12).

The casting out of Satan is an event almost second to none in those coming days of stirring interest. The ceaseless activity of “the accuser of our brethren” in denouncing the saints to God, whose ways afford him abundant cause of complaint and ground of accusation, is a solemn feature of what goes on above unseen by mortal eye. Thank God, we have in Christ, the Righteous One, an Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2), whose all-powerful intercession, founded on His sacrifice, maintains us ever before God, and renders the charges of the enemy nugatory and powerless. “The accuser of our brethren has been cast out.” Satan is completely vanquished and overthrown in the scene and seat of his power. Never again shall his accusations, just or unjust, be listened to in the court of Heaven.

We take it, therefore, that, as a result of the war in Heaven, the celestial regions are for ever freed from the presence of Satan and wicked spirits against whom our conflict, as Christians, is carried on (Ephesians 6:12, R.V.). (“It may not be in every one’s mind that the aerial regions, the air, the cloud-heavens, the spaces above the earth, are now the chief lurking places of evil spirits. But so the Bible teaches. Paul says we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, with wicked spirits in high places, literally, ‘in the heavens,’ ‘in the aerial regions’ (Ephesians 6:12). Hence also Satan is called ‘the prince of the power of the air,’ more literally, the prince of ‘the aerial host,’ meaning wicked spiritual powers dwelling in the aerial heavens (Ephesians 2:2). Thus the satanic confederation has its seat in the upper air, in the atmospheric heaven, in the spaces above and around our world. There they are permitted to have place up to the time of this war.” — “Lectures on the Apocalypse.” Dr. Seiss, vol. 2, page 362.) “The prince of the power of the air” must not be confounded with the title “The prince of this world.” As the former he heads the spiritual powers above, as the latter he heads the temporal powers on earth. The Lord having judged “the host of the high ones that are on high” it only remains to fulfil the second part of the prophetic utterance, “and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:21).

Revelation 12:10Our brethren. Who are they? If the voice in Heaven is that of the heavenly saints, then the brethren referred to would be saints on earth whom Satan accuses, fellow-saints with those in Heaven. These saints were overcomers in their severe conflict with evil. The machinations of Antichrist, and the wiles and even open hostility of the devil were powerless against men whose consciences had been purged by the blood of the Lamb, the holy and righteous ground, moreover, of their standing before God, and in virtue of which the accusations of Satan could not be entertained nor even listened to. There are two grounds stated for their victory over Satan. First, the blood of the Lamb which gave them boldness before God; second, their testimony to men. In this case it would be, of course, of a prophetic character. A third and supplementary statement is added, which shows that the martyr spirit was mighty in them, “and have not loved their life even unto death.” As “partakers of the heavenly calling” resurrection is assured them, for all saints who have died, or shall die, share in the blessedness of the first resurrection. The company here referred to are not yet seen raised, but wait for it. These martyrs are distinct from those who subsequently suffer under the Beast, i.e., revived Rome.

Revelation 12:12. — “Therefore be full of delight, ye heavens,” that is for this cause, that Satan and his angels have been for ever ejected from Heaven. Rejoice, let gladness reign throughout the whole of the heavenly spheres. This is the only instance in the Apocalypse of the word “heavens,” otherwise it is invariably employed in the singular. But not the heavens alone are to share in the joy consequent on the victory of Michael, for it is added, “and ye that dwell (or tabernacle) in them.” The whole company of the redeemed and angels as well (for the heavens are their native region) are embraced in the call to rejoice. The word dwell or tabernacle is the same as in Revelation 7:15; Revelation 13:6; Revelation 21:3.

Revelation 12:12Woe to the earth and to the sea. The Authorized Version wrongly inserts “the inhabiters of the earth.” The interpolation is uncalled for. This is not a denunciation of wrath, but a prophetic announcement of coming judgment on the earth, i.e., on all settled and stable governments and peoples; also on the sea, i.e., the restless and revolutionary part of the world. We have already referred more than once to the symbolic representation of earth and sea.(*See remarks on Revelation 7:1; and on Revelation 8:7.) The former denoting what is fixed, the latter what is unstable. These terms may be used of either things, persons, or governments.

The cause of the prophetic woe on the world at large is next stated, “the devil has come down to you.” His expulsion from the heavens is a matter of jubilant praise above, his deportation to the earth will fill the whole scene under Heaven with sorrow, wickedness, and woe.

Revelation 12:12 — The great rage,” or wrath, of Satan exceeds that of the nations (Revelation 11:18), inasmuch as the former is the prime mover and invisible leader. His rage in being for ever exiled from his heavenly place is intensified by the knowledge that he has before him but a short career on earth. Whether the devil knows the exact period allotted him before he is banished to the abyss we know not. This, however, Christians know, or at least should know, that Satan, when cast down, is permitted to rage against and persecute God’s saints on earth for 1260 literal days; after this a breathing space is granted, a lull in the storm which lasts for seventeen days and a half, the time during which the Beast, the apostate civil and imperial power, is itself the subject of special judgment under the Vials (Revelation 16:1-21), and therefore cannot persecute. These two denominations of time added make up exactly three years and a half, at the close of which the Lord appears, and Satan is confined in the abyss for a thousand years. This is the second stage in the judgment of the devil. The first was his casting down from the heavens. It only remains to execute the third, which is accomplished at the close of the kingdom reign, cast into the lake of fire, his eternal doom. Since the sphere of his operation is restricted to the earth, and Satan knows that his brief career must soon end in utter disaster to himself and his followers, spiritual and human, he gives himself in untiring determination to wreak his vengeance on the woman (Judah), the mother of the Man-Child, and this he is permitted to do during the last half of Daniel’s future prophetic week, less seventeen and a half days. This shortening of the days is what the Lord prophetically referred to in His Mount Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:22).

Commentary on Revelation 12:7-12 by E.M. Zerr

Revelation 12:7. War in heaven. We must keep in mind that everything being described is symbolic and shown to John right there on that isle of Pat-mos. But also we should not forget that inspired symbols stand for actual facts and truths. This war was not the first conflict that the forces of heaven had had with Satan for Jesus said he saw him fall from heaven (Luke 10:18). And Paul tells us what was the cause of the first conflict, namely, his pride (1 Timothy 3:6). Ever since that event he has been the bitter enemy of heaven and all that pertains thereto, never losing an opportunity of getting in his evil work. Now when he sees this expectant mother in heaven (verse 1) he is determined to start a war over it. Just why or how the devil could be present in the vicinity of the angels is not told us in detail, but we know from Job 1:6 Job 2:1 that he has been suffered in the past to be present at gatherings of the angels before God. But the time Jesus saw him fall as cited in Luke was not on the occasion of this war, for the angels who won in the war ascribed the victory to the blood of the Lamb, and when Jesus said he saw Satan fall from heaven was before He had shed his blood. Hence this war was just another attempt of Satan to get in his wicked work and head off the plan of the Lord to give to the world a religion free from the entanglements of worldly despotism, and the selfish ambition of wicked men. It was fitting that Michael should be the angel to lead the forces of heaven against Satan, for he is called "one of the chief princes" in Daniel 10:13, and chapter 12:1 of that same book says that he is the prince that "standeth for the children of thy people."

Revelation 12:8. Satan was defeated and neither was their place found any more in heaven. This means that the enemy not only was vanquished but driven from the field.

Revelation 12:9. Satan was cast out and his angels were cast out with him. This agrees with 2 Peter 2:4 and Judges 1:6, and also explains why Jesus speaks of the devil’s angels in Matthew 25:41. Satan is called that old serpent because he used that beast as his agent in Genesis 3:1-4. Deceiveth the whole world does not mean that every person in the world is deceived for there are exceptions. The thought is that all deception that is in the world is to be attributed to him.

Revelation 12:10. It was perfectly logical that the righteous persons should rejoice over the defeat of Satan. Nov is come is their way of saying that the kingdom of our God was given another victory through the power of his Christ. Accuser of our brethren. The specific accusation is not stated, but since it was a daily performance we may conclude that it refers to the general opposition that Satan has always waged against the Lord and his faithful servants.

Revelation 12:11. The pronoun they stands for "our brethren" in the preceding verse, who are said to have overcome Satan in the war that was fought in heaven. Verse 7 says that Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. There is no conflict in the statements which show that the forces of heaven are always ready to join in any battle with the forces of evil. This recalls the statement of Paul in Hebrews 1:14 that the angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." Overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. The blood had brought them the hope of salvation and that hope gave them the courage to fight Satan. By the word of their testimony. They persisted in their defence of the testimony of Jesus and that helped to put Satan to flight. James 4:7 says, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Loved not their lives unto death. Their faith in the righteousness of their Master’s cause was so strong that even the threat or presence of death could not dampen their zeal. (See Matthew 10:28.) An army of such soldiers canrout the fiercest attacks of Satan.

Revelation 12:12. These happy victors are bidding all the domain of intelligent creatures to rejoice over the situation. However, while the devil has lost this battle, he has not been put out of existence but will use every opportunity that appears for opposing the friends of truth. For this reason the inhabitants of earth and sea are given warning of what to expect. There are literally no creatures in the sea in which Satan is interested. The phrase is a figure of speech that means all creatures everywhere will be the victims of Satan’s hatred. Hath but a short time. Whatever Satan accomplishes against the spiritual interests of mankind must be done while the world stands. After that he and his angels will be cast into the lake of eternal fire from which they will never escape even temporarily.

Commentary on Revelation 12:7-12 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 12:7-9

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.

It is important to note why this episode was included:

The war and its issue are introduced as an explanation of Satan’s fury in these last times and a prediction of his final overthrow.[46]

This war does not merely explain Satan’s fury during "these last times" as apparently limited by Beckwith, but also the fury of Satan from the garden of Eden until the end of time, thus providing the true key to the problem of just "when" this conflict occurred. The events of this encounter lie totally outside the perimeter of the Judeo-Christian religion. The Bible reveals very little with reference to it, except a few references here and there. It is an amazing folly indulged by some Christian scholars who fancy they can find out all about this war from pagan mythology, such mythology itself, in all probability, having been concocted from perverted and corrupted "versions" of a truth evidently known by the early patriarchs. That these verses concern a past event, prior to all history, and perhaps even prior to the human creation itself, is absolutely certain. No other possible understanding of it is either intellectually or theologically tenable. As Beckwith affirmed, "That the Apocalyptist thinks of it as past is evident."[47]

It (Revelation 12:7-8) is included here to account for the relentless hostility of the devil towards God and his church. It relates to the period anterior to the Creation, concerning which we have a slight hint in Judges 1:6.[48]

Inasmuch as this interpretation is rejected by some, a glance at the reasons for its adoption here is appropriate.

(1) It explains the reason for the passage’s appearance in this context.

(2) The war is between the devil and Michael, not between the devil and Christ.

(3) This removes it from the period of the Incarnation, during which the war is between Christ and Satan.

(4) Spiritualizing this passage to make the war a post-resurrection conflict contradicts Matthew 28:18-20. This device is also ridiculous in other ways. "These verses require a much more literal interpretation."[49]

(5) The transfer of Satan’s activities to earth did not occur either during Christ’s ministry, nor after his resurrection. It existed before the birth of Christ (Revelation 12:4), and for ages prior thereto. See comment above on Revelation 12:4.

(6) The heavenly doxology in Revelation 12:10; Revelation 12:12, is at once both proleptic and retrospective, a common feature in this prophecy, and makes no sense at all unless it is so understood. Furthermore, this doxology begins with Revelation 12:10, and should be separated from the account of the war and made the beginning of a new paragraph, as in Wilcock’s translation of this chapter.[50]

(7) Plummer noted that the "strongest argument"[51] opposed to this view is based on Luke 10:18, where Jesus said, "I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven," a statement made by our Lord upon the return of the seventy; but that verse is a reference to a past event, not to a future one; and it is inconceivable that Jesus meant the casting out of a few demons by the seventy was the equivalent of Satan’s being thrown out of heaven! What Jesus meant by such a remark was that, just as Satan had indeed already been thrown out of heaven, Christ was about to throw him out of the earth also! As proof that he would indeed do this, the good report of the seventy had made it certain.

When Jesus said, "Now shall the prince of this world (Satan) be cast out" (John 12:31), he did not mean, nor did he say, "out of heaven." Satan was about to be cast out of the earth, not in the final sense, but in the sense of the enabling victory of the Cross about to be consummated. This apocalyptic account of Satan’s being thrown out of heaven has absolutely nothing to do with the passages in the gospel.

Two different wars are in view: (1) that of Michael and Satan which issued in Satan’s being thrown out of heaven, and (2) that of Christ and Satan with the final result of Satan’s being thrown out of the earth and into the lake of fire.

(8) Advocates of other views are not easily dissuaded, attempting to show that in the Old Testament Satan is represented as having access to the presence of God (in the sense of heaven, of course)[52] quoting Job 1:6-9; Job 2:1-6 and Zechariah 3:1-2. The inference drawn from such passages is that Satan was "still in heaven" during Old Testament times, and that the war in this passage had not yet occurred. Such a view would require us to believe that when Satan inspired Haman to kill all the Jews on earth, he was still in heaven. Who could believe such a thing?

But what about those passages in Job? There is no hint whatever of the events there being "in heaven." Twice in that passage Satan confessed that he was "walking up and down in the earth" (Job 1:7; Job 2:2). Job was a citizen of the earth at the time of those events; and the access that Satan had to God in that passage was exactly that of "the sons of God" who were also living on the earth.

The same truth is evident in Zechariah where Satan was in the presence of the high priest (during the high priest’s lifetime on earth). But were they not also standing before the angel of the Lord? Indeed they were; but the ministry of angels itself is for the saints on the earth (Hebrews 1:14). Scholars who wish to place Satan in heaven during the Old Testament period will have to come up with something a lot better than arguments like these in order to do so.

Returning again to Luke 10:18, if Jesus meant that Satan had only recently been cast out of heaven, what possible event in the ministry of Jesus was the occasion of it? No! Jesus definitely referred to the event related in these verses, and for exactly the same purpose, that of encouraging his followers. Satan’s being cast out of heaven was the prophecy of his final overthrow in the lake of fire.

(9) The name Michael can hardly be construed as a "figure" of anything. To do so would send us in search of figurative meanings for hundreds of Biblical names. Michael stands in the Old Testament as a mighty angel, the prince of God’s Israel (Daniel 10:13), and in the New Testament as the archangel (Judges 1:9). We should not dare to spiritualize this and refer it to another. In this connection, it is appropriate to observe that Christian Science (so-called) has spiritualized a whole dictionary of Bible names, indicating the folly of spiritualizing any name that is clearly a name.

War ... Michael and his angels ... and the dragon ... and his angels ... Morris noted that, "Michael appears as the leader of the heavenly host ... his angels. This accords with his description as archangel (Judges 1:9)."[53] The dragon also leads a band of angels, spoken of in Matthew 25:41. Presumably, these angels who followed Satan are the same as those of Judges 1:6,2 Peter 2:4. We consider these verses historical, despite the objections of some scholars who go out of their way to deny it.

This paragraph must be interpreted in its context in Revelation rather than in relation to obscure Old Testament passages, or Milton’s Paradise Lost. This is not a historical account of the original state of the devil and his fall from that state.[54]

John Milton was a better Bible commentator than some of the modern interpreters. There is no reason whatever for not receiving this passage as historical, despite arbitrary, unproved, and unprovable denials of it.

As for the conceit that this prophecy must be interpreted without benefit of the light shed upon it from other passages of the word of God, such notions should be rejected. What kind of nonsense is it that would deny the light shed by other passages in the Bible, while at the same time dragging in every old pagan myth ever heard of and basing a so-called interpretation on that! The apostles and the Lord himself appealed to the holy Scriptures as supplying enlightenment upon what they discussed; and Christian scholars should do likewise.

We cannot tell who the original author of Ray Summers’ comment, above, may be; but, amazingly, some ten or twelve of the scholars we have consulted on this passage have almost identical, verbatim language used to downgrade any historical view of this passage; but, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks!"[55] Michael is a valid, historical name of the archangel, used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Also, there are clearly historical references to fallen angels in both 2Peter and Jude, which leads us to inquire, why this prejudice against the historical understanding of this? Besides that, any figurative interpretation winds up in all kinds of insoluble difficulties. For example, if it is supposed that this "war" came after the resurrection and enthronement of Christ, and that, "It was an effect of Christ’s resurrection and enthronement,"[56] how can the previous verses here be true; for this chapter clearly reveals that Satan’s being on earth and hating and persecuting the radiant woman was already a fact long before the birth of Christ. This battle which issued in Satan’s being cast down to earth from heaven took place at a time at least prior to the history of the old Israel. Some of the interpretations even bring in angels as mediators!

And they prevailed not ... Nothing is revealed to us of this cosmic struggle; but the implication of the great power, daring, and ability of the evil one are evident. Sufficient to us is the truth that he could not win.

Neither was their place found any more in heaven ... The implications are here, likewise, profound. This says that Satan once had a place in heaven and provides the clue to understanding Ezekiel 28:12-19 as a description of Satan in his heavenly abode. Furthermore this passage reveals Satan already to have been at the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy a fallen being utterly under the condemnation of God, adding another prophecy of his ultimate overthrow in the lake of fire. It is impossible to suppose that, when Ezekiel wrote, Satan was still in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast down ... he was cast down to earth ... It is important to note the difference in being "cast down to earth," which occurred in the "war" of this passage, and in being "cast out" of the earth, as in John 12:31. The first means that Satan’s base of operations was removed to the earth; and the second means that, at last, Satan’s base of operations will be destroyed in the lake of fire. The names of the dragon are next given, making his identity certain.

The old serpent ... "This word carries us back to the garden of Eden, where Satan, under the guise of a serpent, successfully tempted Eve to disobey God’s command."[57]

That is called the devil ... There is only one devil, namely Satan. The word "devil" means "slanderous one, false accuser."[58]

And Satan ... "This is a Grecized transliteration of the Aramaic [~Satana], which originally meant one lying in ambush for."[59]

The deceiver of the whole world ... "This means the one continually deceiving, not merely an erratic deception, but a perpetual, never ceasing program."[60] This is one of ten times that this expression occurs in the New Testament.

This fourfold name of the evil one is a full description of his nature. The reality of Satan as the person who organizes the totality of evil on earth is either forgotten, ignored, or disbelieved by many today; but the perpetual witness of his true existence is in the Lord’s Prayer, "Deliver us from the evil one." No one who actually believes the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament can deny it.

After the victory of Christ on the cross, and subsequent to his glorification, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, no further victories were needed, whether by the archangel Michael or any other being in heaven or upon earth. Therefore, it is theologically impossible to make this war, or battle, in heaven a post-resurrection event. The mingling of the victory of Michael and that of Christ in the following doxology should not be allowed to obscure this fact.

[46] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 618.

[47] Ibid.

[48] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 312.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Michael Wilcock, op. cit., p. 119.

[51] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 311.

[52] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 81.

[53] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 160.

[54] Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 170.

[55] William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2, line 242.

[56] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 373.

[57] Ralph Earle, op. cit., p. 570.

[58] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 377.

[59] Ibid.

[60] James D. Strauss, op. cit., p. 164.

Revelation 12:10

And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom, of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night.

I heard a voice in heaven ... We do not need to identify the voice as being either that of the martyrs or other deceased Christians.

The singers are heavenly beings, but are not designated more precisely. They are not saints, for these are not represented by the book as being in heaven before the end.[61]

This doxology, beginning with this verse, should be separated in a new paragraph to set it off from the "war," as in Wilcock’s translation mentioned above. Many scholars suppose that this doxology was "sung" despite there being no mention of singing. See under Revelation 5:9.

Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ ... There can hardly be any doubt that Beckwith’s comment here is correct:

The expulsion of Satan from the seat of his dominion in the heavens assures his complete overthrow in the end, and calls forth one of those outbursts of praise common in the book, celebrating the future triumph as if present. The hymn is anticipatory. The kingdom of God and the Messiah is not yet established.[62]

Since the kingdom of God and the Messiah and the establishment of the "authority" of Christ mentioned here took place at the very beginning of the Christian dispensation (Matthew 28:18-20), this doxology has the quality of being proleptic at the time it was spoken in heaven by the angels, and from the standpoint of the apocalyptist the quality of being retrospective! Thus, this indicates that the victory celebrated took place long before Christianity began.

For the accuser of our brethren is cast down ... Some have thought that the use of "our brethren" here meant that "the voice" was that of deceased Christians; but that is not correct. Angels might very properly refer to God’s people on earth as their "brethren," for an angel so referred to John himself in Revelation 19:10. This brotherhood between earthly beings and heavenly beings fits beautifully into the purpose here of providing encouragement to suffering and persecuted saints. The fact of the doxology being spoken in heaven "is unsuited to the martyrs beneath the altar,"[63] or any other earthly followers of the Lord. They are not yet in heaven. Ladd also agreed that, "This verse is proleptic and looks forward to the consummation which has not yet occurred."[64] However, the rejoicing angels properly understood that the "casting down" of Satan meant that the ultimate establishment of Christ’s kingdom (the church) was a certainty, for the "casting down" was a prophetic token of what would follow. This simply cannot mean that after the atonement, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, then Satan would have to be thrown down to earth before the kingdom and authority of Christ could be established. No indeed! Satan had already been operating upon the earth ever since the garden of Eden. Thus this passage regarding the heavenly "war" refers to an episode as old as the race of man upon the earth. Barclay misunderstood this passage to refer to "the song of the glorified martyrs when Satan was cast out of heaven."[65] This would require the view that Satan was operating in heaven when the martyrs died for their faith in Christ and would also make the achievement of Michael and his angels to be some kind of great victory beyond and in addition to what Christ had already achieved upon the cross; and, to us, such views are absolutely untenable. Such interpretations derive from mythology, not from the word of God.

[61] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 626.

[62] Ibid., p. 625.

[63] Ibid.

[64] George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 172.

[65] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 83.

Revelation 12:11

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.

This portion of the proleptic doxology, still being spoken by the angels of heaven, takes a still greater leap into the future and rejoices at the salvation of saints who would overcome by the blood of the Lamb and love the Lord even unto death. The big point of this doxology which John placed in the mouths of the angels is that Michael’s victory had no saving power whatever. As a matter of fact it only resulted in Satan’s being cast down to earth where his hatred of God was only multiplied, a hatred which he vented against God’s human creation. Moffatt here probably understood this:

The author by a characteristic and dramatic prolepsis, anticipates the triumph of martyrs and confessors.[66]

This verse proves that the overthrow of Satan, as it regards human salvation, "has actually taken place, not through Michael, but through the power of the sacrifice of Christ."[67] Cox analyzed the things that would enter into the salvation of people thus: "the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and their self-sacrificing love."[68] It is clear that the event of Satan’s being thrown down to earth was an ancient thing that did not enter at all into the procurement of salvation, except in the sense of being a feeble type of it. That is the way it is used in this passage.

[66] James Moffatt, Expositor’s Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 427.

[67] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 203.

[68] Frank L. Cox, According to John (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1948), p. 81.

Revelation 12:12

Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.

Rejoice, O ye heavens ... The mention of sea and earth in the same verse seems to suggest that "heavens" here is used in the sense of "sky"; but its being used in the plural demands, in context, that it be understood as a reference to the dwelling place of the heavenly host.

Woe for the earth and for the sea ... The great significance in both the war episode and in this doxology is that human sorrows have implications far beyond life on earth. Why are there sufferings, persecutions, hatred, tribulations, doubts, and fears? Long, long ago, there was a war in heaven; and the defeated party was cast down to earth where we live. Satan hates God and all goodness, but he cannot attack God; therefore, he turns his malignant rage against the race of man. The quibbler may ask, Why does not God go ahead and destroy Satan at once in order to save all this? But the purpose of God requires that people be tested, and Satan is used of God for that purpose until all of the Father’s designs are accomplished. Sometimes a dog when being punished will bite the stick through anger at the one using it; and people also have been known to wreck a room or a house through anger and frustration at something else. In a similar way, people are a tempting target for the rage of Satan because of the love lavished upon mankind by the Father. In this appears the explanation of all the woes of earth. Our conflict is not merely ours alone.

Angelic forces are also engaged. Our struggles are not to be shrugged off as insignificant. They are part of the great conflict between good and evil.[69]

Human woes and misfortunes are related to that cosmic struggle going on in a theater of far greater dimensions than those of mortal life alone. They are part of what Barclay called the "sleepless vigil of evil against good."[70] The vision of Revelation 12:7-12 was given to afford Christians a glance of the broader conflict of which their own trials are a part.

Because the devil is gone down unto you ... Here is the explanation of the whole phenomenon of evil, and we might add that this is the only true explanation. Several very important considerations appear in this: (1) the kingdom of evil is ruled and directed by an enemy of tremendous strength, energy, intelligence, and hatred; (2) his devices against people are motivated by satanic purposes of the utmost cruelty, savage hatred, and insane wrath; (3) this enemy is personal, Satan being a person of the magnitude of the archangel himself; and (4) he is aided in his nefarious designs by a host of angels constituting, before their fall, a heavenly host of a third of the angels in glory (Revelation 12:4), best understood as meaning a significant part, but a minority, of the heavenly host.

Having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time ... It is vital to understand the "short time" or "little time" mentioned here. The temptation to literalize everything in the book leads to some bizarre conclusions. Some see this as a very few years, months, or even days, just prior to the Second Advent, as Satan "sees his time running out." This has to be wrong, because Satan is not going to see his time running out. No angel of God, much less Satan, knows the day nor the hour of the Second Advent (Matthew 24:35). Beckwith spoke of the time when Satan would see that "he had but a little time before his overthrow";[71] but the maximum intensity of Satan’s wrath crested to its full tide on Calvary, where it contained and defeated, where its fullest fury was spent and beyond which there could never be any greater intensification, just as no army deploying its maximum force and suffering a disastrous defeat can ever regain its original effectiveness. "From the moment Satan was cast down to earth, the moment of his defeat, the short time begins."[72] "This short time is the period of the world’s existence from the advent of Satan until the final judgment."[73] As for the exact time of Satan’s advent on earth, how could we know that? He was certainly in Eden where the great progenitors of the human race were attacked and defeated by him.

There may possibly be another thing intended by a subsequent mention of the "loosing of Satan" in Revelation 20:7 ff, at a time when the dispensation is coming to a close, when the human race in large part shall have finally and irrevocably chosen to serve the devil. The disastrous consequences of that event shall usher in the end itself; but the wrath of Satan shall be no greater than it already is.

[69] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 160.

[70] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 83.

[71] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 619.

[72] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 87.

[73] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 314.

Commentary on Revelation 12:7-12 by Manly Luscombe

7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,… War in heaven - As Satan tried to invade heaven and destroy Christ; Michael and his angels meet him. Michael is the fighting archangel. 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. 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. 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. (James 4:7) Satan seeks to devour us but we can resist. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. Satan did not win. He was not given any power to control people. The devil no longer has control over us. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

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. The time that Satan is cast out of heaven is the time that salvation came to humanity. This is the death on the cross. Christ now has the power. (Matthew 28:18; Romans 1:4) Christ overcame all enemies, including death. The last enemy was Satan, himself. (1 John 3:8). Satan has been limited in his power. Do not be afraid. Satan can kill your body, but he can’t harm your soul. (Matthew 10:28) Those being accused night and day by Satan are referred to as our brethren.

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. These brethren have overcome Satan. How is this possible? It is possible by three things: (1) By the blood of the Lamb, (2) By faithfulness in their testimony, and (3) By putting Christ above their personal safety. 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. (Revelation 2:10)

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

Verses 13-17

Rev 12:13-17


Revelation 12:13-17

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child.--In the symbol John saw the dragon persecute the woman because he was cast down to earth. When Satan saw that his war on the church through the pagan empire was not effective because Christianity had been accepted by the emperor, he persecuted the church through other means. This fact will appear evident from the following verses.

14 And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.--Whatever uncertainty there may be about the historical fulfillment of the symbols in this book, no position can be safe that conflicts with events known to have transpired already. The end of pagan Rome’s persecution of the church, the establishment of the church in the empire, the rise of the papacy and the Protestant Reformation are plain facts that must be considered in interpreting prophetic symbols.

In the symbolic vision John sees the woman given two wings of an eagle by which she might fly into the wilderness. Similar words--"on eagles’ wings"--are used regarding God’s bringing Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 19:3-4.) A wilderness would mean a place of safety, as was used by David and Elijah. (1 Samuel 23:14-15; 1 Kings 19:4.) The woman here refers to the true church in its apostolic purity. The simple idea seems to be that the church, in spite of the opposition, would be preserved as an institution. Hidden in the wilderness indicates that she would not appear as a visible body in congregational organizations, but the truth would still remain. Christ, as the head, could not be destroyed, and the New Testament, as its law, God would providentially preserve. Hence, though hidden from public view, the institution would remain. This is indicated in the expression that during the time in the wilderness the church would be "nourished"--that is, sustained. All that is necessarily meant here is that during the long period of obscurity the apostolic church would not become extinct. This is in accord with Daniel’s statement that God would set up a "kingdom which shall never be destroyed." (Daniel 2:44.) That means that no other kingdom would succeed it, or be built upon its ruins, as was the case of the four universal empires described by Daniel.

A careful comparison of Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 12:14; Revelation 13:5 will show that twelve hundred sixty days, forty-two months, and time, times, and a half time all refer to the same period; hence, must all mean the same. But verse 6, when compared with verse 14, will show definitely that they do mean the same. That the expression is to be understood symbolically--a day for a year--and means 1,260 years seem certain. For reasons already given the probable time for the beginning of the 1,260 years was A.D. 533. See notes on Revelation 11:3-4.

From Christianity’s exaltation by Constantine till the bishop of Rome was declared universal bishop was a period of 208 years. During that time Satan, called the dragon or serpent, continued to make war on the church--largely through the introduction of false doctrines and the exercise of human authority in religion. Gradually the church was corrupted until at the beginning of the 1,260 years the organization became the fully developed "man of sin" and the true church began its wilderness experience--lost to view as a visible organization.

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream.--The woman "nourished" during 1,260 years means that the church was providentially kept alive in spite of Satan’s persecutions, which in the symbol here are represented as a flood of waters being cast out of the serpent’s mouth. David in referring to God’s help in troubles said "He drew me out of many waters." (Psalms 18:16.) Jeremiah spoke of warring enemies as "an overflowing stream."(Jeremiah 47:2.) This is a bold figure to represent the relentless hatred of Satan against the true church, and the fact that at no time will he cease his efforts to destroy it.

16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth.--The vision John saw was an onrushing flood about to overwhelm the woman when the earth with an open chasm swallowed up the water. The dragon is represented as the source of these floods of persecution. As already learned, the dragon is only the agent through which Satan operates. The lesson presented in this part of the symbol appears to be this: The true church, for the 1,260-year period, would be in obscurity--unseen as an organized body--during which time Satan would continue his efforts for its annihilation; but from unseen sources, like the earth swallowing up a flood, its complete destruction would be prevented. Jesus would still remain its head in spite of all pretenders; the gospel would be its law regardless of all false teaching; hence, as an institution, it would continue ready to appear in visible congregations, when the long period designated had come to an end. This verse guarantees that the church, as an institution, would not become extinct, though its true character and teaching would remain obscured for centuries. It is useless to try to point out certain events that prevented the annihilation of the church, for we now know from history that it was not annihilated.

17 And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus:--The first general effort to destroy the church was made through the dragon beast--paganism. Failing to accomplish this result, the wrath and indignation of idol worshipers against the church would reach extreme limits. Satan being repulsed in his efforts to blot out the church as an institution changed his plans of attack. Evidently his method from that time on was to persecute the individual members of the church, here referred to as the "seed" of the woman. The statement of the woman being in the wilderness and the dragon "went away to make war" would indicate this change of method. This war was to be waged against "the rest" of her seed--that is, against individual followers of Christ who were trying to keep faithfully the commandments of God ; those who in persecutions would not deny Christ’s words those martyred because they would not renounce their faith. Multitudes of these, during this long night of spiritual darkness, are solemn witnesses that what this symbol declares actually came to pass. The things here symbolically predicted are presented in detail in the following chapter.

This paragraph presents unmistakable evidence that the Catholic church cannot be the one here represented by the woman, for the woman being in the wilderness indicates that the true church was, as an institution, in obscurity during this 1,260-year period. The Catholic church claims a continued visible existence during that period; hence, cannot be the true church symbolized by the woman.

Commentary on Revelation 12:13-17 by Foy E. Wallace

6. He persecuted the woman which brought forth the man childRevelation 12:13. Here the scenes narrated in verses four to nine were resumed. These descriptions repeated in different symbols the events of the first series which chapters four to eleven had envisioned.

In verses four to nine of this chapter the woman’s flight into the wilderness was related. Here in Revelation 12:13-14 the reason and manner of her flight were described. The reason was that under the guardianship of Michael and his hosts the dragon and his forces prevailed not in the “war in heaven”--in the high places of authority in governments-- against the woman’s seed. Being defeated it was said that neither was their place found any more in heaven--that is, in the sphere of previous activity against the church, in the realm of political authority and government. But Michael’s triumph and the dragon’s failure to destroy the woman’s seed did not prevent the further persecutions. Enraged at being thwarted in his plans to annihilate the church by the destruction of the man child in Jerusalem, where it was born, and which was caught up to God and to his throne, the dragon turns upon the woman and launched a general persecution against the whole church. It was at this point and for this reason that the woman fled into the wilderness (verse 6), the manner of the flight being described here in verse 13.

The “two wings of a great eagle” that were given to her was the same symbol of divine strength employed in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. In Exodus 19:4 God said to Israel, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto myself.” The instinct of the eagle, when its young are ready to attempt flight, is to hover over the nest and flutter its wings to lead the young ones into the venture. In Deuteronomy 32:11-12, in the Song of Moses, it is recorded that “as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreacleth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him (Israel), and there was no strange God with him.” In this same imagery, and doubtless in allusion to it, the seer of Revelation represents God’s hovering protection and imparted strength in the flight of the woman from besieged Jerusalem into the wilderness, as God did for Israel in the exodus from Egypt, to “a place prepared of God” (verse 6), or “into her place” (Revelation 12:14) --the same place.

As previously noted, the Lord foretold this flight in similar description of the tribulation of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” According to this statement of the Lord there cannot ever be events of the future to fulfill these descriptions. It is evident that the context of Revelation is only an extension of the Lord’s predictions in Matthew twenty-four, and that the Revelation was received and recorded several years before the destruction of Jerusalem, the impending “present distress” of 1 Corinthians 7:26, which was so soon coming upon the church of the God. In the same Corinthian context the apostle said, “the time is short.” The darkest threatening cloud and the most frightening, horrifying portents hanging over the whole church, were the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and their attending tribulations.

7. Where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpentRevelation 12:14. In this wilderness, or place prepared of God, where Jesus instructed the disciples who later formed the Jerusalem church to flee, the verse states concerning the woman that she was nourished for a time, times and a half time. This nourishment of the woman in “her place” compares with the manna by which Israel was fed in the wilderness, upon which event this description is based. In the Old Testament experience it was the result of the flight from Egypt of the church of Moses in the wilderness of Sinai; in the experience of Revelation it was the church of Christ in the flight from Jerusalem to her place in the wilderness of Pella --that place prepared of God, where she was nourished by providential protection. The numerical designation for a time, and times and half a time was equivalent to the forty and two months (of Revelation 11:2), and the thousand two hundred and threescore days of Revelation 11:3 and Revelation 12:6, and they were equal to the same thing. They all refer, as explained in the comments on their mention in the preceding verses, to the mathematically calculated period of twelve hundred and sixty days between Nero’s order to Vespasian in the declaration of war and the completion of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem which brought an end to the Jewish state and the system of Judaism.

The mystically phrased expression of time and times and half a time was related to the ebbing and flowing of the tide of the persecutions and was comparable to the reference in Revelation 17:8 “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” The beast was when the persecutor was active; the beast was not when there was an interval of time between the persecutions; and the beast was seen as being reactivated in the last expression yet is. In a similar way the time and the times, of chapter twelve, referred to the period of the persecution in stages, and the expression half a time was the symbolic reference to the shortening of the period of tribulation as indicated in Revelation 11:9 in the expression three days and a half, and as foretold by the Lord in Revelation 11:9. It is consistent that the time and times and half a time shall be considered to mean the same shortened period as indicated in the expression three days and an half, in both of which the exact period from the commencement of the siege to the termination of it was certainly designated. (See comments on Revelation 11:9)

It is said in Revelation 12:14 that the woman was nourished for this time from the face of the serpent (Revelation 12:14), in a place far from, and safe from, the scene of the siege and its accompanying trials, humiliations and horrors.

8. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the floodRevelation 12:15. The water as a flood from the mouth of the serpent was the symbol of an overwhelming tide of persecution, combining all of the Satanic forces of destruction at the command of the serpent. The psalmist David used the same imagery in Psalms 18:4; Psalms 18:16 : “The floods of ungodly men made me afraid . . . he drew me out of many waters.” In a poem of salvation Isaiah, the prophet, exclaimed: “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) The prophet Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Philistia with the same symbolic description as David and Isaiah: “Behold waters rise out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land and all that is therein: then the men shall cry and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl.” (Jeremiah 47:2)

The most significant Old Testament use of the flood symbol is Daniel’s parallel prophecy on the destruction of Jerusalem, generally referred to as “the seventy weeks of Daniel.” (Daniel 9:27) The mathematical computations bring the fulfillment of this prophecy from “the going forth” of the commandment to rebuild and restore the temple to the final destruction of Jerusalem--the whole period from the proclamation of Cyrus to the end of the Jewish commonwealth-- in the words of Daniel “the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:26) The dual phrases “the end thereof shall be with a flood” and “unto the end of the war desolations are determined“ referred to the flood of persecution and the end of the war terminating in the fall of Jerusalem and end of the Jewish state. Thus the prophecy of Daniel is identified and merged with the apocalypse of John on the siege with its overwhelming flood of persecution.

Such is the evident application of chapter 12, verse 15, of Revelation--“And the serpent cast out of his mouth as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.” The woman escaped this flood of the horrible onslaught of this war of the Romans against Jerusalem, declared by Nero, ordered by Vespasian and executed by Cestius Gallius and his general, Titus. These related events blend naturally and historically with the apocalypse, and they are not anachronistic.

9. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth"Revelation 12:16. The symbol of the earth in Revelation has been defined as the place of nations. That was its meaning here. The rebellions and uprisings and local wars which were occurring and increasing at this time, causing many conflicts among the subordinate kingdoms and nations of the empire, diverted the attention and action of Rome, and thus detracted Roman authorities from the persecutions. It had the effect of a diversionary strategy.

Here again the predictions of Jesus in Matthew twenty-four parallel the apocalypses of Revelation. Jesus said: “For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” This is exactly what occurred--and that is how the earth helped the woman and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. The leading thought is that divine providence overruled the transpiring events to protect and sustain and deliver the woman--his church--in the day of her persecution.

10. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ—Revelation 12:17. Because his strategy to destroy the church within Jerusalem, by the woman’s flight and the help she received from the earth, the dragon’s wrath mentioned in Revelation 12:12, was intensified in the persecution of the remnant of her seed--or as otherwise translated, the rest of her seed. By the phrases remnant, or rest of her seed was meant that part of the church which did not dwell in Jerusalem and Judea and was not of the martyred number.

The woman’s seed was composed of two classes--first, the man child, represented collectively as first-fruits, who were caught up unto God, symbolizing the martyrs; second, the remnant or rest of her children who were not martyrs, but remained on the earth to pass through the tribulation. The word man child is an aggregate term which could not have referred to a single person, any more than the collective phrase rest of her seed could have had singular meaning.

The text will not yield to the view that the woman’s man child was Christ. There is no principle of exegesis which can represent the church as the mother of Christ. But there are numerous examples that represent both the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament collectively as composed of the same ones who are separately called the children, as a part of the whole. Hosea 4:6 referred to Israel as a whole, and then mentioned them as “thy children.”

Isaiah 66:7-8 prophesied of the nation that brings forth children. Jeremiah 31:15 had “Rachel (the nation of Israel) weeping for her children.” (Also Matthew 2:18) Daniel 12:1 made reference to Israel as a people, but as “thy children.” Matthew 13:38 refers to the “children of the kingdom.” The kingdom is composed collectively of them all, as a whole, yet they were children of it. Galatians 4:26 calls the spiritual Jerusalem “the mother of us all”--it is composed of us all collectively, but the mother of us all separately. Hebrews 12:23 refers to the general assembly and church of the first born. The word firstborn is in the plural number in the Greek text and means the firstborn ones. The general assembly and church are collective, but the firstborn are the children of it. So it is in Revelation with the woman--the church; and her seed, children composed of the two classes--the man child (martyrs) caught up unto God; and the rest of her seed, throughout the empire, against which the dragon “went to make war,” and who, with the plaudit of the seer, kept “the commandments of God” and had “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The commandments mentioned here pertained to their fidelity in the tribulation; and the expression the testimony of Jesus Christ referred to the witness or testimony that He had borne to them concerning the outcome of the period of trial through which they were passing, as in Revelation 3:20 : “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (trial) which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell in it.” The world referred to the Roman world, and them that dwell on the earthreferred to Christians in every kingdom, nation or tributary, in every place or part of the empire.

(3) The summary of the symbols.

The context of chapter twelve yields three major points which must be classified and discriminated in order:

First, the woman was a symbol of the Jerusalem church --represented as “the new Jerusalem,” in chapter 21:2 at the close of the Revelation, and stands for the whole church.

Second, the man child referred to the martyred souls as “the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb.” (Chapters 6:10- 11; 14:4; 20:4) The woman’s seed “caught up unto God and to his throne,” who thereby entered into a state of victory over the dragon and his wrath in a distinctive sense. (Chapter 12:5)

Third, the remnant or rest of the woman’s seed were distinguished from the man child, as being that part of the woman’s seed who suffered the trials of the great tribulation but were not slain or beheaded as were the martyrs. (Revelation 6:9-11 and Revelation 20:4)

The woman of this chapter, therefore, must be considered as the organic body of the church--the totality of its members; distinguished from her seed, or children--the constituent members of it, in the two classes mentioned. The text and context will sustain this analysis, and these viewpoints can be maintained.

Commentary on Revelation 12:13-17 by Walter Scott


Revelation 12:13-17. — And when the dragon saw that he had been cast out into the earth, he persecuted the woman which bore the male (child). And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished there a time, and times, and half a time, from (the) face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth behind the woman water as a river, that he might make her be (as) one carried away by a river. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus. The deeply interesting episode of the war in Heaven (Revelation 12:7-12) had to be introduced in order to account for the woman’s flight into the wilderness. Satan, baffled in his attempt to destroy the Man-Child, turns his rage against the mother (Israel). So long as he had a place in Heaven his fitting title was “the accuser” of the brethren, and chief, too, of the mighty spiritual host against which we war (Ephesians 6:12). But the war in Heaven is decisive so far as Satan and wicked spirits in the heavenlies are concerned. They are cast down; the heavens are for ever cleared of their presence. But on the completion and victory of the heavenly war the earthly contest begins. The issue of the former is an everlasting expulsion from the heavens; the issue of the latter will be the confinement of Satan in the abyss for a millennium.

The broken thread of history is then resumed (Revelation 12:13); the parenthesis (Revelation 12:7-12) accounting alone for the flight of the woman. The dragon is on earth. He seeks to wreak his vengeance on Judah then restored to the land, and representing the whole nation before God, for as yet Ephraim, or the long lost ten tribes, has not come into view. In Revelation 12:6 the flight of the woman is mentioned, being repeated in Revelation 12:14. Persecution caused her to fly (Revelation 12:13).

Revelation 12:14. — “There were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle.” The insertion of the definite article, omitted in the Authorised Version, marks the definiteness of the action. Wings convey a double thought, namely, rapid motion and guaranteed protection. Both these are granted to the woman. Evidently the allusion to the wings of the eagle refers to Jehovah’s past care of His people and deliverance from then impending danger (Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11-12). In the earlier reference the wings are attributed to Jehovah; here they are given to the woman. All in this part of our chapter is providential.

The symbolic force of the term wilderness into which the woman fled has been already considered.(*See remarks on Revelation 12:6.) She has a place prepared of God, and can also count upon the exercise of divine care. In Revelation 12:6 the period of her isolation in the wilderness is counted by days, 1260, but here it is spoken of in more ambiguous terms as “a time (one year), and times (two years), and half a time” (“Seven times” (Daniel 4:16; Daniel 4:23; Daniel 4:25; Daniel 4:32); times are years. Seven years Nebuchadnezzar lived as a beast, i.e., without heart or conscience to God, just what his and the succeeding empires became, beastly in character and action (Daniel 7:1-28). See also separate article, “The Celebrated Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.”) (six months), in all three years and a half. This mode of reckoning is taken from Daniel 7:25. We have months (Revelation 11:2; Revelation 13:5). days (Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6), and times (v. 14). All these variously expressed periods refer to the same time, the last half week of sorrow spoken of by the Hebrew prophet as the “midst of the week” (Daniel 9:27). When the period is spoken of as days the suffering saints are specially in view.

Revelation 12:14The face of the serpent. Nations and peoples in the time of Satan’s activity on earth fall under his malignant influence; are directed and controlled morally and politically. The former is that special form of evil referred to here, from which the woman is preserved. The dragon persecutes, the serpent ensnares.

Revelation 12:15. — The serpent cast out of his mouth behind the woman water as a river (For the force of the symbol see remarks on Revelation 8:10-11.) that she might be carried away by it. The devil here uses a certain power, or powers, which are under his influence to accomplish the destruction of the Jewish nation. God providentially frustrates the effort of the serpent. “And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth.” The settled governments of that day befriend the Jew, and providentially (how we know not) frustrate the efforts of the serpent. The means employed by Satan are rendered abortive, not by war, but in neutralizing and circumventing Satan’s plans to destroy the people. This, we gather, is signified by the earth swallowing the river.

The failure rouses the ire of the dragon, and in his baffled rage he goes “to make war with the remnant of her seed,” i.e., individual Jews who had not escaped when the Tribulation burst forth (Matthew 24:15-20). These individual and faithful witnesses are doubly characterised: “they keep the commandments of God” — the great and distinguishing mark of a godly life, and one common to all believers at all times — “and have the testimony of Jesus.” This, of course, is special, and refers to His coming in His kingdom. “The testimony of Jesus” in this book is prophetic in character.(*See remarks on Revelation 1:2.) In the Gospels it is of a different nature — one of grace and moral display.


The last verse of the previous chapter intimates that Israel comes on the prophetic scene, but not as viewed on earth, although actually there. The sign is in Heaven, the first instance of the word in the Apocalypse (Revelation 12:1). The woman is not the Church, but Israel. The Church is the bride of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7). Israel is the mother of the Lord according to the flesh (Romans 9:5). The Male Son — a singular expression — is Christ, so called as He alone is the sum of human excellence, and by birth steps into the rights and dignities of Psalms 2:1-12. Who but He could shepherd the nations with a rod of iron? Others through grace are associated with Him in the exercise of universal dominion (Revelation 2:26-27). But the Male Son (“The Man-Child is the Lord Jesus Christ, and none other.” — Alford.) can only refer to One, the embodiment of all masculine virtue.

The woman is represented as the possessor of all supreme earthly authority — the sun. The pale and silvery moon, the queen of the night, is under her feet. She is royal in rank, too, for on her head reposes a crown in which is gathered up in grand display the fulness in earthly administration of all lesser powers — twelve stars. This is Israel as God sees her; not what she is now, nor even what she has been, but it is “a great sign” of what awaits her in millennial times.

Another sign is then seen in “the Heaven.” A dragon, great, for he is the unseen yet mighty leader of the hosts of evil in the heavens and on earth; red because of his murderous character, delighting in bloodshed; with seven heads crowned with diadems signifying that the fulness of imperial, autocratic power is his; ten horns, the latter condition of the empire in its ten-kingdom form, but not yet in existence, so the horns are not crowned; then his tail in which his venom and deceit lie sweeps across the political horizon, and casts down to the ground, morally, of course, the sum of eminent persons in the western part of the empire.

The dragon is Satan — the former denoting his character, the latter the personal opponent of Christ and adversary of the saints — who is witnessed confronting with murderous purpose the woman in order to destroy her seed. He is baffled, for the Son is caught up to God. The life and even death of the Lord, rich as these are in fundamental truth and teaching, are passed over in silence. The ascension follows the birth, all between being regarded as a parenthesis.

Then the woman flees into the wilderness, and we meet with another and yet more lengthened parenthesis. Between the ascension of the Man-Child and the woman’s flight, yet future, the history of Christianity comes in. The great point to lay hold of is the connection between Christ and Israel, not Christ and the Church, hence the two omitted parenthetic periods: (1) between the birth and ascension; (2) between the ascension and the flight.

Then follows the interesting account of the war in Heaven, introduced here to show why the woman had to flee. Satan and his angels are for ever cast down from Heaven, which fact, along with the knowledge that his career on earth is of brief duration, rouses his anger against the mother; previously his rage was directed against the Child. The means he employs to accomplish her ruin are in the providential ordering of God rendered ineffectual. Both the Son and the woman escape his vengeance. But individual God-fearing Jews become the objects of his murderous hate. (“To make war” (Revelation 12:17) implies every form of attack upon the bodies of the saints whether by persecution or war. Physical hurt and evil of every kind is referred to under the technical expression (see Revelation 11:7; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:19).)

So closes this wonderful chapter, in which are grouped perhaps the greatest events related in this marvellous book. It is a chapter second to none in its range of subjects, and goes further back in its historical grasp than any other portion of the book. Who but God could have furnished such a connected grouping of events?

Commentary on Revelation 12:13-17 by E.M. Zerr

Revelation 12:13. Was cast unto the earth. The attempts of Satan against the forces of heaven were completely overthrown. That left only the territory of the earth for future operations, and as a persistent general he began at once to carry out his wicked strategy. His objective was to persecute the woman (the church) who had given birth to the man child, namely, the principle of "self-determination."

Revelation 12:14. This is a repetition of verse 6 with the additional information about the two wings that were given her. They are symbols and refers to the Old and New Testament, for it is the word of God that sustains the church in all the trying scenes of this world. It is by this word the woman (the church) was to be nourished (given spiritual food) while she is in the wilderness. The length of her exile in the wilderness is the same actual period that has been stated elsewhere, only it is indicated with different figurative terms. The word "time" in figurative language means "year;" this is indicated in Daniel 4:16 Daniel 7:25 Daniel 12:7. Our verse calls for time (one), times (two) and half a time. It sums up three and a half times or years. Multiply 360 by three and a half and you have 1260, the period of the Dark Ages.

Revelation 12:15. Sometimes when specific temptations do not make the desired "dent" in the character of a Christian, he may be finally overcome by an avalanche of afflictions. The devil (in the form of a serpent) tried this last method on the church. It was symbolized by having the devil cast a flood of water out of his mouth, hoping to engulf the woman in it there being no way to escape due to its volume. The Roman Empire used both methods in opposing the Lord’s people. Sometimes an outstanding instance would be used such as burning a man at the stake or nailing some disciple to a cross. Then again the government would let loose a wholesale sweep of persecutions.

Revelation 12:16. In the case of a flood there would appear to be no possible way of escape. But an unexpected opening in the earth let the water down and the woman was thereby saved. Likewise it happens that when matters seem to be at a crisis, and when "no earthly help is nigh," something will occur to defeat the enemy and rescue the would-be victim.

Revelation 12:17. If the devil fails to make a wholesale destruction of the church, he will work on as many of the individual members as he can contact. This is the only explanation I can see that will harmonize the parts of this verse which might seem to be in difficulty. The woman (the church) is made up of individual disciples, and to attack one is to attack the other. Yet there is a distinction between the church as a whole and the individual members thereof. Paul said "ye are the body of Christ, and member in particular" (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Commentary on Revelation 12:13-17 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 12:13

And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child.

He persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child ... It is a gross error to read this as if it said, "He persecuted the woman after the man child was caught up to God." To be sure, he did that also, but such an understanding of the passage imports a time element that does not belong there. When did he persecute the woman? As soon as he was cast down to earth. That persecution existed in Eden (Genesis 3:15) and has been going on ever since. The woman is to be identified with God’s people throughout all dispensations.

That brought forth the man child ... is therefore to be viewed merely as an identification of the woman (which certainly included Eve and her descendants) and has the meaning of "the woman who was in time to bring forth the man child"; but when John wrote, the man child had already appeared, hence the past tense in this identifying clause.

He persecuted the woman ... The duration of this persecution is that of the human race itself. There has never been a time, nor will there ever be, when Satan does not persecute the righteous. He persecuted the old Israel, then her son Christ, then the holy church throughout the time of her pilgrimage. Why? The two reasons visible here are: (1) Satan was thrown out of heaven to earth where mankind was available to him as an object of his hatred and wrath; and (2) Satan knew that he had but a little time. "It is short with reference to eternity."[74] How is the persecution carried on? In every way. "It includes persecution of the hand, of the tongue, and of the pen."[75]

[74] Ibid.

[75] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 81.

Revelation 12:14

And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

The two wings of the great eagle ... The great drama of persecution has here moved into its third phase: (1) It first raged against the woman before Christ was born. (2) It reached it bitterest and most intense malignity during the ministry of the Son of God. (3) It next fell upon the young church, the old Israel itself being a satanic instrument in this. The first outrages against the church were promulgated by the Jews. The church would sorely need the wings of the great eagle in order to flee from her foes.

This figure of eagle’s wings is an old one, God himself having used it in speaking of his deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 9:4), of which God said, "I have borne you on eagles’ wings." Here the wings are given to the woman, and thus there is both a difference and a resemblance. "The strength of the earlier dispensation was a strength often used for, rather than in, the people of God; the strength of the latter is a strength in them."[76] There is a plain indication in this passage that the experiences of the church are the antitype of the escape of Israel from Pharaoh, "and her preservation in the wilderness."[77] The church also has her wilderness wanderings. "The typology seems to remind the people of the new covenant that, like the people of the old covenant, they are pilgrims having no settled home in the world."[78]

Where she is nourished ... The manna and other marks of divine favor given to Israel in the wilderness are a pledge that God will also provide for his church. "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

For a time, and times, and half a time ... This is the same period as the forty-two months (Revelation 11:2-3); and, "This is the whole period of the church’s experience upon the earth."[79] "These forty-two months may contain an allusion to the forty-two stations of the wilderness wanderings (Numbers 33:5 f)."[80] The historicist interpreters limit this period to 1,260 years after the rise of the papacy, and extending to the days of Martin Luther.[81] As stated repeatedly, we do not despise this method of interpretation, because there very definitely are very startling suggestions of the things held to be prophesied here; but our preference for another view is inherent in the evident purpose of Revelation to encourage Christians; and it could have been no encouragement at all for the suffering saints of the first century to be told that the Lord would start nourishing the church in her wilderness some four or five centuries after they lived.

[76] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 595.

[77] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 314.

[78] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 205.

[79] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 88.

[80] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 164

[81] John T. Hinds, A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 185.

Revelation 12:15

And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the steam.

Water as a river ... This flood is thought to represent "overwhelming misfortune, every form of destructive and bitter persecutions,"[82] "all manner of delusions,"[83] etc. Caird thought the river is "the river of lies which the serpent spewed out of his mouth."[84] The fact of the serpent’s mouth being mentioned here as the source of the river, and also the fact of his original deception of Eve with a base lie suggest that the river is indeed a great and never-ending stream of vicious and delusive lies. In ancient times, it was the lies of the Gnostics and various delusive heresies that rose from within the historical church herself; but the old serpent’s falsehood business is a prolific and prosperous as ever. It is not difficult to cite examples. Lenski cited evolution; Pieters named:

Ebionism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Montanism, Arianism, and Pelagianism from early centuries, and Romanism, Socinianism, Unitarianism, Modernism, Russellism, Christian Science, Spiritualism, etc., from later and present times.[85]

For ourselves, we shall add Solifidianism, Materialism, Communism, and Humanism.

[82] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 314.

[83] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 384.

[84] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 159.

[85] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 165.

Revelation 12:16

And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

Earth helped the woman ... swallowed up the river ... There are two different interpretations of this:

(1) Beasley-Murray illustrated this with Judges 5:20, where it is said that, "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera," also citing the case of the waters of the Red Sea withdrawing and enabling Israel to escape from Pharaoh.[86] Barclay also took a very similar view thus:

Nature itself is on the side of the man who is faithful to Jesus Christ. As Froude the historian pointed out, in the world there is a moral order; and, in the long run, it is well with the good and with the wicked.[87]

It cannot be denied that in nature itself there are many providences that "help the woman."

(2) A second view was expressed by Cox.

When Christ’s disciples are of the world, the world loves its own (John 15:19). When the church’s tone and life are lowered by yielding to the influences of the world, the earth itself is ready to hasten to her side.[88]

While this is true enough, it is not clear how such a thing would be called a "help" to the woman, except indirectly through providing a less hostile atmosphere for the true Christians resisting worldly influences. Perhaps we should leave the "how" of this with the Lord. "What is certain is that the church is preserved in a wonderful and even miraculous way from the efforts of Satan."[89]

[86] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 206.

[87] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 86.

[88] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 82.

[89] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 314.

Revelation 12:17

And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus:

And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman ... What is meant here is not an intensification of Satan’s wrath, but an extension of it. Progressively, Satan had persecuted Israel (the woman) before Christ was born, and then the Christ himself, upon whom the fullest anger and hatred of the devil reached its most intense and bitter climax on the cross; and, at this point, his wrath was directed to the destruction of the infant church, a project inherent in the activity both of Saul of Tarsus and of Herod Agrippa II; but when the church fled into the wilderness (the scattering that arose upon the martyrdom of Stephen), Satan extended and continued his persecution of God’s people, called here "the rest of her seed," and meaning the Christians of all ages.

The rest of her seed ... This suggests Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:29, where Paul spoke of all Christians as "the seed of Abraham." Thus the woman is both the old Israel and the new Israel, but in both cases, only the true Israel. "The rest means the whole body of Christians, not merely those who are contrasted with the church in Jerusalem."[90] "The church is every believer’s mother. She precedes us and brings us forth as her seed."[91] The signal to Christians in this is that satanic hatred, persecution and violence are to be expected throughout the whole life of the church on earth.

That keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus ... This makes a distinction between the false and the true Christian. The world indeed may love "and help" the church in the person of its weak and compromising members (as in view 2, above); but those who really honor the word of God and the testimony of Jesus shall suffer persecution. "These are the true members of the body, not merely worldly professors."[92]

Revelation 13:1 a, and "I stood upon the sand of the sea." (KJV)

Rist was of the opinion that the RSV should be followed here (also our own version the ASV); but we have followed the KJV for the sake of the following comments. The reading "He" stood upon the sand of the sea gives the meaning that, "the dragon is summoning help from the sea, and is going to give up his authority to the beast that comes up out of its depths."[93] In this chapter, Satan, the great enemy of mankind, depicted here as the dragon, has been introduced; but he will appear repeatedly in several different guises in the subsequent chapters of this prophecy.

This picture of the dragon halting on the seashore to call his terrible ally is one of the highest interest, and forms a real feature of Revelation. The student must not think of the sea as calm and peaceful, but as restless and troubled (It is a symbol of earth’s populations).[94]

[90] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 630.

[91] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 386.

[92] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 90.

[93] Martin Rist, op. cit., p. 459.

[94] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 90.

Commentary on Revelation 12:13-17 by Manly Luscombe

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. 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. 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.

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. 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. This verse is similar to verse 6. 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. 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.

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. Satan is at work seeking to persecute and destroy the church. One of his methods of destroying the church is the use of the flood from his mouth. 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. 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. Jesus said it very clearly in John 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.

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

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. Satan is angry. He feels he is losing control. He is venting his anger at the church. “The rest of her offspring (seed)” is defined as Christians. Jesus was the seed of Abraham. (Galatians 3:16) Christians are the seed of Abraham. (Galatians 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. (2 Timothy 2:2) This was God’s plan as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20. Teach the converts all things that Jesus commanded. 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 2 Timothy 3:12 is a warning that the godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Sermon on Revelation 12:1-17

The Dragon

Brent Kercheville

We were told in Revelation 10:11 that John still had to prophesy about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings. Now that the fall of the Jewish nation has been detailed in Revelation 11, our attention is turned to the next object of God’s judgment. Curiously, many of our brethren see chapters 12-19 as a recapitulation of the events we have read about in chapters 6-11. That is, if the author sees Rome destroyed in chapter 11, then chapters 12-19 are about the fall of Rome from a different perspective. Similarly, if the author sees Jerusalem destroyed in chapter 11, then chapters 12-19 are about the fall of Jerusalem from a different perspective. I believe the book of Revelation is moving forward in prophecy rather than restating that which was already predicted in the earlier chapters of the book. The prophecy about many people and nations is beginning in chapter 12.

The Woman (Revelation 12:1-2)

A new sign is given for John to see. A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She is pregnant and experiencing labor pains. The imagery pictures her as a glorious woman. She has been given authority and honor as seen with the crown of twelve stars and the moon under her feet. The important image to identify this woman is found in the description of her labor pains. This is a prophetic image found in a few places in the Old Testament.

Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pain seized you like a woman in labor? 10 Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4:9-10 ESV)

Micah prophesies that Israel will go into Babylonian captivity in severe pain like a woman in labor. But there they will be rescued and redeemed. The picture is of suffering bringing about a remnant, God’s spiritual nation, that God will rescue and redeem. Micah continued this imagery a few verses later in his prophecy.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:2-4 ESV)

Micah says that the suffering of the nation will continue until the remnant brings about the birth of the Messiah. This was a prophecy of hope. The Messiah will come and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord. You will recognize the birthplace of the Messiah predicted, the small town of Bethlehem. The labor pains were a prediction of the suffering of the physical nation of Israel which would result in the purifying of the people so that God would have his remnant. The remnant would be people through whom the Christ would come.

The Dragon (Revelation 12:3-4)

The next sign given in Revelation 12 is a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. On the seven heads were seven diadems. The horns are a symbol of power and the crowns are a representation of authority. The seven heads and ten horns picture a terrifying image of great power, authority, knowledge, and strength. It is worth noting that the word “diadems” (a transliteration of the Greek word diadema) can only be found in Revelation and in no other book in the New Testament. It is a different word than the crown (stephanos) we read the woman having in Revelation 12:1. The distinction between the word “crown” and “diadem” is that the crown represents a permanent victory, while the diadem represents a ruling authority and power. This great power is shown in verse 4 where the dragon is able to sweep down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. The sweeping of the stars is a display of the dragon’s great authority. Stars frequently represent nations and kings. The dragon has some power over the nations and kings of the earth. Verse 9 makes clear who the dragon represents. The dragon is that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan. He is the deceiver of the whole world. Verse 4 reveals that Satan is awaiting for the birth of the Christ so as to destroy him.

The Child (Revelation 12:5-6)

Revelation 12:5 confirms our interpretation of these symbols using language reserved for the Messiah. The child is the “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” This is a reference to the messianic prophecy in Psalms 2:9.

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalms 2:7-9 ESV)

We will see Christ later in the book of Revelation ruling with a rod of iron.

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15 ESV)

The dragon (Satan) is attempting to devour the child (Christ). However, the Christ is born and caught up to God and to his throne. Satan attempts to kill the Christ, but Christ is raised from the dead and ascends to the Father. The woman (the remnant) flees for protection in a place prepared by God. The spiritual nation, the true people of God, are preserved for 1260 days. We learned in Revelation 11 that 1260 days is the same as 42 months, which is the same as a time, times, and half a time. This is referring to a limited period of distress, persecution, and tribulation. The people of God are under attack by Satan, but they are spiritually secure.

Satan Cast Down (Revelation 12:7-12)

A battle is described occurring in heaven. Michael and his angels are fighting the dragon and his angels. The dragon was defeated and thrown down to the earth along with his angels. A battle occurred and Satan lost. What event is this referring to? For help, let us turn to the words of Jesus while he was on the earth.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:27-33 ESV)

Jesus said that Satan would be cast out when he died and rose from the dead. Jesus is picturing the victory he is about to achieve. He will draw all people to himself as he is glorified on the cross. The heavenly counterpart to Christ’s victory on the cross and at his resurrection are described in Revelation 12:7-9. I do not think we should start reading this as a literal activity of Satan living in heaven but now lives on the earth. Rather, the symbolism continues. Christ has dealt a blow to Satan with his death and resurrection. Satan has been defeated. Satan’s plans have been thwarted. All that Satan has left to do is battle the people of God on the earth. The battle against Christ, the heavenly battle, was lost.

The effect of Christ’s victory on the cross over Satan and sin is declared in verse 10. Salvation has come. Power has come. The kingdom has come. The authority of Christ has come. The accuser has been thrown down. Christ has shown his power. Christ has exercised his authority in his victory on the cross. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection salvation has come and Christ is exercising his rule in his kingdom. No longer can Satan accuse us because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34 ESV)

The effect of this expulsion from heaven will be illustrated in Revelation 20:1-3. The ultimate meaning of Christ’s victory over Satan will be graphically revealed to us in Revelation 20. The people of God through Christ are victorious (Revelation 12:11). Notice the wording in Revelation 12:11. Who conquered Satan? “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Here is a picture of those who conquer Satan. We conquer because of the blood of the Lamb. We needed his redemptive work on the cross so that we can defeat Satan. Further, we conquer by the word of our testimony. We are those who overcome when we proclaim this good news to the world. Through all things, the people of God must be faithful, testifying and confessing Jesus, even to the point of death. The conquerers do not love their lives. They love Jesus and will give their lives for him. Revelation 12:12 tells us that there is cause for rejoicing because of our status in Christ. But woe to the earth because Satan is enraged and he knows his time his short. Satan is not done. But his time is short.

Satan’s Attack (Revelation 12:13-17)

Because Satan’s plan has been thwarted to destroy the Christ, Satan turns his attention to the woman. We were told back in verse 6 that the woman would flee to the wilderness for protection during these tribulation times. Revelation 12:13 picks back up on that thought after noting the effect of Christ’s victory over Satan. Satan looks to attack the faithful remnant that brought about the Christ. However, the woman was given two wings of the great eagle to fly to wilderness for protection for a time, times, and half a time.

Being carried on eagles’ wings into the wilderness is a reference to how God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery into the wilderness to Mount Sinai. You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (Exodus 19:4 ESV)

It is also a picture of comfortand security to the remnant, the spiritual Israel. But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 ESV)

Flood waters are used to describe persecution. David used language like this when Saul was trying to kill him. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me. (Psalms 18:4) David uses a torrent of water to describe the persecution. Then he uses waters to describe his deliverance. He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. (Psalms 18:16) Therefore, Satan does not give up even though the remnant are protected. Satan will try to destroy the true people of God. But verse 16 shows that he will fail in that effort.

Revelation 12:17 shows that this failure enrages Satan all the more. Satan turns his attention to the rest of her offspring to make war with them. We are told who the rest of the offspring are. “Those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” This gives us a time frame for what is going on in this chapter. The woman represented the remnant of Israel who were spiritually true to the Lord and brought about the child, the Christ. The woman is attacked by Satan but is preserved. The woman is still the first century remnant who are enduring tribulation but are spiritually secure. All that is left is for Satan to take his attack to the future. He is going to make war with the rest of her offspring. Satan is going to turn his attention to the church. This is what we are going to read about in chapter 13. Chapter 13 is going to show us how Satan is going to take his attack to the church in the future. Satan was unsuccessful in defeating Christ and unsuccessful in extinguishing the remnant. Satan now attacks the church, those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. More persecutions are to come.


1. The victory we have in Christ (Revelation 12:10-11)

2. The call for faithfulness (Revelation 12:11). Do not love your lives even to death.



Read Revelation 12

1. Describe the woman arrayed with the sun. Ans. Revelation 12:1-2.

2. Describe the great red dragon. Ans. Revelation 12:3.

3. How did the dragon cast down a third part of the stars? Ans. Revelation 12:4.

4. Why did he stand before the woman? Ans. Revelation 12:4.

5. Who was born of the woman? Ans. Revelation 12:5.

6. How was the child saved from the dragon? Ans. Revelation 12:5.

7. Where did the woman flee? Ans. Revelation 12:6.

8. How long was she nourished there? Ans. Revelation 12:6.

9. Between whom was there war in heaven? Ans. Revelation 12:7.

10. Who was victorious in this conflict? Ans. Revelation 12:8-9.

11. To what place were the dragon and his angels cast down? Ans. Revelation 12:9.

12. Give four other names applied to the dragon. Ans. Revelation 12:9.

13. What did a great voice in heaven say had now come? Ans. Revelation 12:10.

14. How was the dragon overcome? Ans.Revelation 12:11.

15. Why was this an occasion for rejoicing in heaven and for sorrow on earth? Ans. Revelation 12:12.

16. Whom did the dragon persecute after he was cast down to earth? Ans. Revelation 12:13.

17. How did the woman escape the dragon? Ans. Revelation 12:14.

18. How then did the dragon attempt to destroy the woman? Ans. Revelation 12:15.

19. How did the woman escape this attempt of the serpent? Ans. Revelation 12:16.

20. Upon whom did the dragon then make war? Ans. Revelation 12:17.

E.M. Zerr

Questions on Revelation

Revelation Chapter Twelve

1. What appeared in heaven?

2. Tell what personage was seen.

3. With what was she clothed?

4. Tell what was under her feet.

5. What was on her head?

6. How many stars did it have?

7. State the condition of this woman.

8. What other wonder appeared in heaven?

9. How many heads and horns did it have?

10. What did he do with his tail?

11. Where did the dragon stand?

12. What was his purpose?

13. Tell what the woman then did.

14. State what this child was to do.

15. What now was done with the child?

16. And what did the woman do now?

17. Tell what God had here done for her.

18. For how long will she be there?

19. What occurred in heaven?

20. Who were the combatants?

21. How did the contest end?

22. What was done to the dragon and his angels?

23. When did they return to their place there?

24. State the names of the dragon.

25. Where did John hear a voice?

26. In what were they rejoicing?

27. Who had been cast down?

28. By what did they overcome him?

29. What was their attitude toward death?

30. What were the heavens bid do?

31. Why the woe to the inhabitants of the earth?

32. For what reason is the devil full of wrath?

33. What did the dragon realize?

34. This caused him to persecute whom?

35. What had the woman done?

36. Tell what was given to the woman.

37. For what use were they to her?

38. ’ro what place did she fly?

39. How is she to be treated while there?

40. For how long will this continue?

41. From what face. is she thus separated?

42. What was then cast from the serpent’s mouth?

43. In what amount was it?

44. State his purpose in this.

45. What helped the women?

46. By what act did it do so?

47. How did this affe.t the dragon?

48. What did he go to make?

49. With whom was it to be?

50. What were these people keeping?

Revelation Chapter Twelve

Ralph Starling

Three great battles are recorded in chapter 12.

that’s worthy of our time and mind to dwell.

Battles that were engaged and fought in Heaven

by the angels of Michael and those of the devil.

The war was about a child to be born and the devil was

determined to destroy him with great scorn.

But he woul be cast down and despised by the blood

of the Lamb, their testimony and their lives.

When the Devil was cast out of heaven on the earth,

He persecuted the woman who gave the man-child birth.

But the earth protected her in her time of need,

And the Devil went to war against the remnant of her seed,

And continued his battle of hatred and spite against all

who became followers of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Revelation 12". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/revelation-12.html.
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