Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Revelation 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors




The Woman and the DragonThe Woman, the Child, and the DragonThe Vision of the Woman, the Child, and the DragonThe Woman and the DragonThe Vision of the Woman and the Dragon
Revelation 12:1-6Revelation 12:1-6Revelation 12:1-6Revelation 12:1-2Revelation 12:1-6
Satan Thrown Out of HeavenRevelation 12:3-6
Revelation 12:7-12Revelation 12:7-12Revelation 12:7-9Revelation 12:7-9Revelation 12:7-12`
The Woman PersecutedRevelation 12:10-12Revelation 12:10-12
Revelation 12:13-17Revelation 12:13-17Revelation 12:13-1712:13-18Revelation 12:13-17
The Two BeastsThe Beast From the SeaThe Two BeastsThe Two BeastsThe Dragon Delegates His Power to the Beast
Revelation 13:1-4Revelation 13:1-10Revelation 13:1-4Revelation 13:1-4
Revelation 13:5-8Revelation 13:5-8Revelation 13:5-8
Revelation 13:9-10The Beast from the LandRevelation 13:9-10Revelation 13:9-10The False Prophet as the Slave of the Beast
Revelation 13:11-18Revelation 13:11-18Revelation 13:11-18Revelation 13:11-17Revelation 13:11-17
Revelation 13:18Revelation 13:18
The Song of the 144,000The Lamb and the 144,000An InterludeThe Lamb and His PeopleThe Companions of the Lamb
Revelation 14:1-5Revelation 14:1-5Revelation 14:1-5Revelation 14:1-5Revelation 14:1-5
The Messages of the Three AngelsThe Proclamation of Three AngelsThe Three AngelsAngels Announce the Day of Judgment
Revelation 14:6-7Revelation 14:6-13Revelation 14:6-7Revelation 14:6-7Revelation 14:6-7
Revelation 14:8Revelation 14:8Revelation 14:8Revelation 14:8
Revelation 14:9-12Revelation 14:9-11Revelation 14:9-11Revelation 14:9-13
Revelation 14:12Revelation 14:12
Revelation 14:13Revelation 14:13Revelation 14:13
Revelation 14:13b
The Harvest of the EarthReaping the Earth's HarvestThe Harvest of the EarthThe Harvest and the Vintage of the Gentiles
Revelation 14:14-16Revelation 14:14-16Revelation 14:14-16Revelation 14:14-16Revelation 14:14-16
Reaping the Grapes of Wrath
Revelation 14:17-20Revelation 14:17-20Revelation 14:17-20Revelation 14:17Revelation 14:17-20
Revelation 14:18-20

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHT TO Revelation 12:1-17

A. Another interlude begins in Revelation 12:1 and continues through Revelation 14:20. Many have asserted that this is really another series of sevens. This literary unit describes the spiritual conflict in dualistic terms among

1. the two kingdoms

2. the two cities

3. the two slain witnesses and their murderers

B. Verses Revelation 12:1-6 describe the ultimate (cosmic) battle between good and evil in mythological terms taken from Ancient Near Eastern cultures (cf. Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral p. 229).

1. Babylonian creation accountTiamat (chaos), a seven headed monster who threw down one third of the stars of heaven, versus Marduk, the chief god of the city of Babylon, who kills her and becomes the head of the pantheon.

2. Egyptian mythSet (Typhon), a red dragon versus Isis (Hathor), giving birth to Horus. He later kills Set.

3. Ugaritic Baal legendYam (waters) versus Ba'al. Ba'al kills Yam.

4. Persian mythAzhi Dabaka (evil dragon) versus son of Ahura Mazda (the high good god).

5. Greek myththe Python (serpent/dragon) versus pregnant Leto (she gives birth to Apollo, who kills Python).

C. It is very difficult to know how to interpret this chapter. Some try to interpret it in historical terms, but it seems to me that it is symbolic of the struggle between the anti-God kingdoms of this age and the new age kingdom of our Christ (cf. Revelation 11:18; Psalms 2:0). Therefore, this is both a historical allusion to the birth of Christ and an emphasis on the coming of the Messianic kingdom. This is a dualism of an individual (Messiah) and a group (the people of God) versus an individual (Satan) and a group (demonically inspired unbelievers). This same dualism is seen in the Servant Songs of Isaiah. The servant is Israel (cf. Isa. 41-50), yet the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 52:13-12).

D. Paul discusses the cosmic lordship of Christ in Colossians 1-2 (also note Hebrews 1:2-3).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the relationship between the 144,000 found in chapters 7 and 14?

2. To what does Mt. Zion refer?

3. Are the qualifications found in Revelation 14:4 a description of a select celibate group or the whole people of God?

4. What is the significance of Revelation 14:6 and 7?

5. Who or what is Babylon?

6. Is hell eternal?

7. Who is the person sitting on the cloud in Revelation 14:14-16 and why?

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 12:1-6 1A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. 6Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Revelation 12:1 "A great sign appeared in heaven" This may be the beginning of "the seven signs" of the Revelation. This is a special theological term (sçmeion) used often in John's Gospel (cf. John 2:11, John 2:23; John 3:2; John 4:54; John 6:2, John 6:14, John 6:30; John 7:31; John 9:16; John 10:41; John 11:47; John 12:18, John 12:37; John 20:30). It now appears seven times between Revelation 12:1 and 19:20three times of signs in heaven (cf. Revelation 12:1, Revelation 12:3; Revelation 15:1) and four times of signs on the earth (cf. Revelation 13:13, Revelation 13:14; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:20).

"in heaven" This probably means "in the sky" and not in heaven itself. The term heaven(s) in the OT can refer to the atmosphere above the earth (cf. Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:8-9, Genesis 1:17, Genesis 1:20; Psalms 104:2-3) or the place where God dwells (cf. Psalms 11:4; Psalms 103:19; Isaiah 66:1; 2 Corinthians 12:0). This ambiguity is what caused the rabbis to speculate on the number of heavensthree or seven.


"a woman clothed with" This woman is beautifully described, in antithesis to the great whore of Revelation 17:4 who symbolizes anti-God world empires such as Babylon, Rome, and the end-time anti-Christ world system. There have been two theories about the source of John's imagery:

1. Genesis 3:0, where there is a woman, a serpent and a man-child

2. other strong allusions to "birthing" in the OT (cf. Isaiah 26:17-18 in the Septuagint and Isaiah 66:7-13)

Israel is described as a woman giving birth (cf. Micah 4:10), therefore, this woman represents the true people of God (cf. Revelation 12:1-6), but in Revelation 12:13-17 she will be the NT people of God fleeing from the wrath of the dragon. For other theories see Alan Johnson's Revelation, pp. 117-119.

In Answers to Questions F. F. Bruce said, "The woman I should think of as the messianic community or 'Israel of God' especially as manifested locally in the Palestinian church, the mother-church par excellence; . . . The 'remnant of her seed' will be Christians in other parts of the world, the target of attack in Revelation 13:7" (p. 140).

In New Bible Commentary George R. Beasley-Murray said, "Religious people of the ancient world would have seen in the travailing woman a goddess crowned with the twelve stars of the zodiac; a Jew would have understood her as Mother Zion (see Isaiah 26:16; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 49:14-25; Isaiah 54:1-8; Isaiah 66:7-9), but for John she represented the 'Mother' of the Messianic community, the believing people of God of old and new covenants" (p. 1441).

"twelve stars" Here again our presuppositions drive the interpretation.

1. if it is OT then it refers to the twelve Jewish tribes

2. if it is intertestamental apocalyptic literature it refers to the signs of the zodiac

3. if it is NT then it refers to the twelve Apostles

Twelve is the regular biblical symbolic number of organization. See Special Topic: the Number Twelve at Revelation 7:4.

However, the meaning of chapter 12 is not conditioned on a proper identification of John's symbolism, but the central truth of the context. This principle must be maintained. We must not

1. push the details

2. choose some things literally and some things symbolically

3. force our interpretations into our historical setting

Revelation 12:2 Birth pains were used as a symbol for

1. expected, but sudden events

2. the pain or problems associated with an expected event

3. the beginning of something new with great potential

The Jews believed that the coming of the "new age" would involve persecution and problems (cf. Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7-13; Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). John uses this concept to describe the conflict between Satan and his followers and God and His followers (cf. Isaiah 66:7-24).

World events are going to get worse and worse, but God is in control of history (this is the view of premillennialism and amillennialsim, while postmillennialism is much more optimistic about world history). His followers are protected amidst persecution and victorious amidst temporary defeat, even physical death (cf. John 16:20-21). The question is, "How will God protect His followers?" His seal on their foreheads protects them from "the wrath of God," but not from the persecutions of unbelievers (tribulation). God is for them, with them, and loves them, but many will still die!

Revelation 12:3 "a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems" This is a description of evil and great power (cf. Revelation 12:1 and 17:3). The horns and heads symbolize perfect power (cf. Daniel 7:0) and the diadems represent the evil one's attempted usurpation of Christ's royal place.

The term "dragon" may go back to the OT

1. the serpent of Genesis 3:0

2. the two evil monsters of chaos

a. Rahab (cf. Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 51:9-10; Job 26:12-13)

b. Leviathan (cf. Psalms 74:13-14; Psalms 104:26; Job 3:8; Job 7:12; Job 41:1; Isaiah 27:1; Amos 9:3)

There are numerous titles for the evil one found in the NT

1. "Satan," used 33 times

2. the "Devil," used 32 times

3. the "Tempter," (cf. Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)

4. the "evil one," (cf. Matthew 6:13; Matthew 13:19; 1 John 5:18)

5. the "Enemy," (cf. Matthew 13:39)

6. the "Prince of Demons," (cf. Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24)

7. "the Ruler of this world," (cf. John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11)

8. "the Prince of the Power of the air," (cf. Ephesians 2:2)

9. "The god of this world," (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4)

10. "Belial," (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15)

11. "Beelzebul," (cf. Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, Luke 11:18-19)

12. "the Dragon," (cf. Revelation 12:3, Revelation 12:4, Revelation 12:7, Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2)

13. "the Serpent," (cf. Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:15; Revelation 20:2)

14. "the Accuser," (cf. Revelation 12:10, Revelation 12:15)

15. "the Adversary," (cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

16. "a roaring lion," (cf. 1 Peter 5:8)


Revelation 12:4 "his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth" Because the term "the stars of heaven" is used quite often in the OT to refer to the saints of God (cf. Genesis 15:5; Jeremiah 33:22; Daniel 12:3), some have assumed that this refers to saints, but the context could refer to angels (cf. Daniel 8:10; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Falling angels (i.e., falling stars) are a common motif in apocalyptic literature (i.e., I Enoch).

Satan is depicted with the angels in heaven before God in Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3:0. He was possibly a "covering cherub" (cf. Ezekiel 28:12-18). This description, using metaphors from the Garden of Eden, does not fit the King of Tyre, but the king's pride and arrogance mimicked Satan's (I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with this approach because in Ezekiel 31:0 the king of Egypt is described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ezekiel regularly uses Eden terms to describe kings). In the OT Satan is not an enemy of God, but of mankind (cf. Revelation 12:10). Satan was not created evil but developed into an arch enemy of all things good and holy (cf. A. B. Davidson's An Old Testament Theology, pp. 300-306). Several times he is said to have been cast out of heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:16; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; and Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:12). The problem is when. Is it:

1. during the OT period

a. before the creation of man

b. some time after Job but before Ezekiel 28:0

c. during the post-exilic period, but after Zechariah

2. during the NT period

a. after Jesus' temptation (cf. Matthew 4:0)

b. during the mission trip of the seventy (cf. Luke 10:18)

c. at an end-time moment of rebellion (cf. Revelation 12:9). See Special Topic at Revelation 12:7.

One wonders whether the third of the stars refers to angels who rebelled against God and chose to follow Satan. If so, this may be the only Scriptural basis for the demonic of the NT related to fallen angels (cf. Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:12). The number, one-third, may be related to the limit of the destruction during the trumpet judgments (cf. Revelation 8:7-12; Revelation 9:15, Revelation 9:18) and not a specific number. Or, it may represent Satan's defeat of part of the angels in battle. It is also possible it simply reflects the ancient myth of Babylon. See Contextual Insights, B. 1.

At this point it may be helpful to remember that although this issue is interesting, it probably was not the author's intent in this context to discuss (1) the origin of the demonic; (2) the fall of Satan; or (3) an angelic rebellion in heaven. In apocalyptic literature the central theme of the vision is crucial, but the literalness of the presentation, the details and the images are dramatic, symbolic, fictional. It is our curiosity and respect for the Bible that motivates our detailed, logical, doctrinal formulations. Be careful of pushing the details; apocalyptic literature is often true theology presented in an imaginative frame-work. It is true, but symbolically presented!

"he might devour her child" This child refers to the promised Messiah (cf. Revelation 12:5). Satan wants to thwart God's plans at every level, both the universal plan for redemption (unconditional covenants) and the individual plan of redemption (conditional covenants, cf. Matthew 13:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

Revelation 12:5 "she gave birth to a son, a male child" This may be an allusion to Isaiah 66:7-8. Notice how John moves from the incarnation of Jesus to the eschatological reign. All the things in between are dealt with in John's Gospel, but not in the Revelation.

"who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron" This is an allusion to Psalms 2:9 and is, therefore, Messianic. In Revelation 19:15 this phrase is used of the Messiah, while in Revelation 2:26-27 it is used of the saints. There is a fluidity between the Messiah (individual) and the believing community (corporate) here, as there is in the servant songs of Isaiah (i.e., national Israel, cf. Isaiah 42:1-9, Isaiah 42:19; Isaiah 49:1-7; Isaiah 50:4-11; Isaiah 52:13-12). As the evil one now rules the nations, a new leader has come and will ond day completely reign.

"and her child was caught up to God and to His throne" Some see this as the ascension of Christ, but we miss the point of this literary unit if we make it too strong an allusion to the historical life of Christ. John, in the book of Revelation, does not discuss Jesus' earthly life or death. He moves theologically from the incarnation to the exaltation. The focus of Revelation is the glorified, exalted Christ (cf. Revelation 1:4-20). John's presentation of the gospel in Revelation focuses on repentance and giving glory to God. This is meant not to depreciate Jesus' central role (cf. Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:12; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 12:11), but to focus on His role of bringing the eternal kingdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25-28); the kingdom of both the Father and the Son!

Revelation 12:6 "the woman fled into the wilderness" Many see here an allusion to the Exodus, which is found throughout this context. The time of wilderness wanderings was seen by the rabbis as a betrothal period between YHWH and Israel. During this time, He provided all of their needs and was intimately present with them.

"a place prepared by God" Although the general context reflects the Wilderness Wandering Period, this phrase carries other historical allusions.

1. Elijah by the brook Cherith (cf. 1 Kings 17:1-7)

2. Elijah's flight into the Sinai peninsula (cf. 1 Kings 19:1-14)

3. the seven thousand faithful (cf. 1 Kings 19:18)

4. those who fled the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (cf. Matthew 24:15-20; Mark 13:12-18)

"for one thousand two hundred and sixty days" Again, this seems to be an undetermined, but limited, period of persecution. This same period of time is referred to in several different ways which equal about three and one half years.

1. "time, times and a half time" (cf. Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 12:14)

2. "2,300 evenings and mornings" (cf. Daniel 8:14)

3. "forty-two months" (cf. Revelation 11:2; Revelation 13:5); "1,260 days" (cf. Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6); "1,290 days" (cf. Daniel 12:11); and "1,335 days" (cf. Daniel 12:12).

Seven is the perfect number in Hebrew numerology (cf. Genesis 1:1-3). One less than seven speaks of human imperfection and 666 (cf. Revelation 13:17-18) is the ultimate imperfect human, the Antichrist (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:0). In the same vein, three and one-half is symbolic of a limited, but indefinite, period of persecution. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FORTY-TWO MONTHS at Revelation 11:2.

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 12:7-10a 7And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,

Revelation 12:7 "there was war in heaven"


"Michael" There are only two named angels in the Bible (i.e., Michael, Gabriel). This angel is named as the angel of the nation of Israel in Daniel 10:13, Revelation 12:1 and 12:1. He is called an archangel in Jude 1:9. His name means "who is like God." Some see this as another name for Christ, but this seems to be going too far. God is not threatened by the rebellion of the evil one. The Bible is not a dualism, like Persian Zoroastrianism. God defeats the evil one by the use of an angel (although in reality it was the redemptive work of Christ).

In legal metaphor, Michael is the defense attorney, while Satan acts as the prosecution attorney and YHWH is the Judge! Michael wins the case through

1. the sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (cf. Revelation 12:16)

2. the faithful witness of the church (cf. Revelation 12:11b)

3. the perseverance of the church (cf. Revelation 12:11c)

"the dragon and his angels waged war" Exactly who Satan's angels are is hard to describe biblically. Many see them as demonic (cf. Matthew 25:41; Ephesians 6:10ff). But there is always the nagging question of the angels in Tartarus (cf. 2 Peter 2:4), and the angels mentioned in Revelation 9:14, who are obviously controlled by God but are apparently evil angels. Much of the conflict in the angelic world is simply unexplained (cf. Daniel 10:0).

There is also an ongoing discussion related to the relationship between the fallen angels of the OT and the demons of the NT. The Bible is silent on this subject. Interbiblical apocalyptic literature (specifically I Enoch) asserts that the half-angel, half- human offspring of Genesis 6:1-4 are NT demons seeking human bodies to re-inhabit. This is just speculation, but it does reveal what some of the first century Jews thought about this subject.

The aorist infinitive does not seem to fit this context. It is possibly a Semitism and might be translated "had to fight" (cf. The Expositor's Bible commentary, vol. 12, "Revelation" by Alan Johnson, p. 519, footnote #7. This is one of my favorite commentators on Revelation).

Revelation 12:8 This is the first in a series of encouraging words to a persecuted Church. Revelation 12:8, Revelation 12:11, Revelation 12:14 give great comfort to the people of God who were undergoing persecution in the first century and in every century. Satan has already been defeated twice: once in his attempt to kill the Child (cf. Revelation 12:4) and now in his attempt to storm the throne of God (cf. Revelation 12:7-9); he will also be defeated in his attempt to wipe out the people of God on earth.

"there was no longer a place found for them in heaven" This implies that Satan has been in heaven for some time (cf. Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:0; and 1 Kings 22:21). Notice the plural pronoun, which implies other angels in league with Satan.

Revelation 12:9 "the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan" Here and Revelation 20:2 (cf. The Wisdom of Solomon 2:24), are the only places where Satan is explicitly identified with the serpent of Genesis 3:0 and implicitly in 2 Corinthians 11:3. The term "devil" is the Greek term for "slanderer," while the term "Satan" is the Hebrew word for "adversary" (cf. 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 11:14). They both emphasize the function of the evil one as the accuser of the brethren (cf. Revelation 12:10). The term "Satan" in the OT (see Special Topic at Revelation 12:3) is not usually a proper noun, but it is in three specific occurrences: (1) Job 1-2; (2) Zechariah 3:1-3; and (3) 1 Chronicles 21:1. For "was thrown down" see full note at Revelation 12:4 and 7.


"who deceives the whole world" This describes the mission of the evil one. As the gospel is universal (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8), so too the antigospel! The best book that I have read on the development of Satan in the Bible, from servant to enemy, is A. B. Davidson's A Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 300-306. Satan's mission is described in 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:8, Revelation 20:10; 2 John 1:7. It is hard to conceive of Satan as a servant of God but compare 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1.

"he was thrown down to the earth" The term "thrown down" is used several times in this context: twice in Revelation 12:9; in Revelation 12:10, and Revelation 12:13. It is also used in Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:14, Revelation 20:15 and is possibly an allusion to Isaiah 14:12 or Luke 10:18; and possibly John 12:31.

The earth becomes the realm of Satan's activities. See fuller notes on Satan's fall at Revelation 12:4 and 7.

Verses 10-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 12:10-12 10"Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. 11"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. 12"For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."

Revelation 12:10-12 This is the message of the one with the loud voice in heaven.

Revelation 12:10 "the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come" This is a literary equivalent to Revelation 11:15-18. The end is already present and God is victorious! This was very helpful to a group of believers who were suffering extreme persecution, even death.

"for the accuser of our brethren" This shows that the voice of Revelation 12:10 was not an angel, but apparently believers, possibly the martyrs of Revelation 6:9-11.

The Hebrew term Satan means "accuser." We see Satan in this role in Job 1:9-11 and Zechariah 3:1.

"he who accuses them before our God day and night" Satan is cast out of heaven yet he still accuses the faithful before God. This is the fluidity of this genre. His power is broken, but he is still active (however, limited by God, cf. Job 1-2).

Revelation 12:11 "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony" The victory has already been won by the substitutionary atonement of God's Messiah (cf. Revelation 1:5; Revelation 7:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7). This atonement involves both

1. the grace of God through Christ's sacrificial death (cf. Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

2. believers' required faith response (cf. Revelation 6:9; Mark 1:15; John 1:12; John 3:16; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21) and their sharing of that faith (i.e., lifestyle and verbally)

This phrase is much like Revelation 14:12. There is great similarity between Revelation 12:11 and 17. Revelation 11:0 seems to describe salvation, while Revelation 12:17 seems to describe Christian maturity and perseverance. Notice Christ's victory occurs at Calvary, not the millennium.

NASB"and they did not love their life even to death" NKJV"and they did not love their lives to the death" NRSV"for they did not cling to life even in the face of death" TEV"they were willing to give up their lives and die" NJB"because even in the face of death they did not cling to life"

First century believers and their families faced horrible deaths (as do many in every age). They were sealed and protected by God, but still they are subject to persecution by unbelievers. Their faith in Christ was stronger than their fear of death (cf. Revelation 2:10; Mark 8:35; Mark 13:13; Luke 14:26; John 12:25).

Revelation 12:12 "rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them" This is a present middle imperative (cf. Revelation 18:20). It may be an allusion to Psalms 96:11 or Isaiah 49:13. Heaven is to rejoice because Satan has been cast out, but woe be unto the earth!

The plural "heavens" is used in the OT to denote (1) the atmosphere above the earth (cf. Genesis 1:0) and (2) the place where God dwells. In this context it is #2.

The term "dwell" (NASB, NKJV, NRSV) or "live there" (TEV, NJB) is from the noun "tabernacle." It implies a permanent residence with God (cf. Revelation 7:15; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:6; Revelation 21:3 and John 1:14 of Christ with us).

"wrath" See full note at Revelation 7:14.

"knowing that he has only a short time" This seems to refer to the period of time between the Ascension of Christ (cf. Acts 1:9-11) and the Second Coming which John and the first century Christians thought would be in a short period of time. It has been almost 2,000 years now; every generation has the hope of the any-moment return of the Lord. Believers were warned of this delay in 2 Thessalonians and Matthew 24:45-51. Be careful that the delay does not reduce faith (cf. 2 Peter 3:3-4).


Verses 13-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 12:13-17 13And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 16But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. 17So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 12:13 "the woman" Possibly originally "the woman" referred to the OT believing community; now it refers to the NT people of God (cf. Revelation 12:17; Revelation 13:7). In Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6, A. T. Robertson calls her "the true Israel on earth" (p. 395).

Revelation 12:14 "the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman" These eagle wings are symbolic of God's protection and provision (cf. Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 36:7; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 63:7; Psalms 90:1, Psalms 90:4; and Isaiah 40:31). This may be another allusion to the new exodus.

"so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place" The wilderness is seen as a place of divine protection, alluding to the Wilderness Wandering Period of Israel's history (cf. Revelation 12:6). This would be great encouragement to a hurting church.

"a time and times and half a time" This is an allusion to Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7. For a full note on this phrase see Revelation 12:2 and 12:6.

Revelation 12:15 "the serpent poured water" There is no exact OT parallel to this. It may be a metaphor connected to God's wrath in Hosea 5:10 or metaphors of times of pressure and sorrow like Psalms 18:4; Psalms 124:4-5. But because chapter 12 has drawn so much of its imagery from Ancient Near Eastern creation myths, it possibly refers to watery chaos, the primeval struggle of good versus evil, order versus chaos.

Nature fought for Barak and Deborah against the Canaanite city of Hazor and her military general, Sisera: (1) the rain stopped their chariots (cf. Judges 5:4) and (2) even the stars (thought of as angelic powers) fought against Sisera (cf. Judges 5:20).

Revelation 12:17 ". . .and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring" The evil one tried to destroy the Messianic community by

1.destroying the Messiah

2. destroying the mother church

3. by destroying all Messianic followers.

The phrase "to make war" is metaphorical of spiritual, political, and economic oppositions. This is an allusion to Daniel 7:21 (cf. Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:7). This persecution is the very evidence of the church's victory through Christ (cf. Philippians 1:28).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Describe the content of the seventh trumpet.

2. Why is the vision of the Ark of the Covenant so encouraging to these first century Christians?

3. Who is the woman of Revelation 12:0?

4. When did this battle in heaven occur?

5. How are the devil's angels related to the demonic?

6. What does the phrase "a time, times and a half-time" mean in Daniel and Revelation?

7. How would this passage encourage first century, persecuted Christians?


A. Chapter 13 is a further development of the imagery of Revelation 12:13-17.

B. The OT background of this chapter is Daniel 7:0. The four predicted Near Eastern empires of Daniel are combined in this one ultimate, universal, anti-God, end-time kingdom.

C. The emperor worship of the first century (esp. in Asia Minor) is one historical fulfillment of the worship of the beast, as will be the end-time man of sin (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:0), and the little horn of Daniel 7:0 (cf. Revelation 13:8, Revelation 13:11,20,25), which is out of the fourth kingdom, Rome.

D. The beast has been identified in two ways

1. As an ongoing, false teaching/teacher(s) (cf. 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). It is both plural and singular, both present and future.

2. As an actual person, possibly foreshadowed in evil persons throughout history (Antiochus, Roman Emperors, Hitler, etc., but ultimately personified in an end-time figure, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10).

E. See Special Topic below.


Verse 17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 12:17-6 Revelation 12:17bAnd the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. 13: 1Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" 5There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

Revelation 13:1 "the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore" NASB, NKJV and NJB begin Revelation 13:0 with this phrase (i.e., Revelation 12:17b), while TEV concludes Revelation 12:0 with it.

There is a manuscript variant related to the verb in Rev. 12:18 and Revelation 13:1, "stood"

1. "he stood," referring to the beast/dragon which relates to Revelation 12:0 MSS P47, א, A, C, (NASB, NRSV, TEV, REB, NET, NIV)

2. "I stood," referring to John which relates forward to Revelation 13:0 MSS P, 046, 051 (NKJV, NJB)

The UBS4 gives option #1 a "B" rating (almost certain).

The "sea" may be an allusion to Daniel 7:2-3. It was a symbol of

1. the whole of humanity (cf. Isaiah 17:12-13; Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:15)

2. the forces of chaos (cf. Genesis 1:0; Isaiah 51:9-10)

"Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea" The wild beast (cf. Revelation 13:14, Revelation 13:15; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:13; Revelation 15:8) is first mentioned without fanfare in Revelation 11:7 as coming out of the abyss (cf. Revelation 17:8). It seems to refer to "the Antichrist" of 1 John 2:18a, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7, also known as "the man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The same description of this beast is found in Revelation 12:3 and 17:3,8.

The phrase "coming out of the sea" has been interpreted in several ways.

1. literally, as in intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature as Leviathan and in Revelation 12:11 as Behemoth

2. an allusion to Daniel 7:0, where the beast comes up out of the sea in Revelation 13:3 and out of the earth in Revelation 13:17, which in Daniel 7:0 are synonymous, but John has separated the last beasts into two separate end-time evil personalities: the sea beast, Revelation 13:1 and the land beast, Revelation 13:11

3. a symbol of fallen humanity (cf. particularly Revelation 17:15, but also Daniel 7:2-3; Isaiah 17:12-13; Isaiah 57:20)

The reason that the two beasts of chapter 13 are mentioned as coming out of the sea and the land is (1) because this chapter follows Daniel 7:0 so closely or (2) because they combine to represent the whole earth. It is also possible that these two beasts plus Satan form an evil parody of the Trinity.

"Ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems" This is not exactly like the dragon (cf. Revelation 12:3) but it is very similar (cf. Revelation 17:3, Revelation 17:7-12). The ten horns speak of complete power; the seven heads represent a perfect manifestation of evil, and the ten diadems are a claim to royalty. Evil is often a counterfeit of good. This is the first of several parodies of Christ.

"blasphemous names" The Greek manuscripts are equally divided between the plural (MS A) "names" (NRSV, NJB) and singular (MSS P47, א, C, P) "name" (NKJV, TEV). UBS4 cannot decide which is original. Whichever is true, this is obviously an allusion to Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:20, Revelation 12:5 or 11:36. These blasphemous titles are connected with the (1) claim of deity or (2) evil titles (cf. Revelation 17:3).

Revelation 13:2 "the beast which I saw was like a leopard. . .a bear. . .a lion" This combination of several beasts is another allusion to Daniel 7:4, Daniel 7:5, Daniel 7:6, where it refers to a series of kings, but here the symbolism has been changed into a composite of all the anti-God world systems personified in one leader (cf. Daniel 7:24).

"And the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority" This is parallel to 2 Thessalonians 2:9, which speaks of a Satanically-inspired power. The beast is not Satan, but a supernaturally empowered human manifestation or incarnation of him (cf. Revelation 13:4, Revelation 13:12). This is another parody of Christ (cf. Revelation 5:6).

Revelation 13:3 "I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain" This is a perfect passive participle, which is syntactically parallel to the Lamb of Revelation 5:6. This is another parody of Jesus' death and resurrection.

"and his fatal wound was healed" Does Satan have the ability to resurrect this person, or is this trickery, deception, and mimicking (cf. Revelation 13:15)? Satan is parodying the power of God in raising Christ.

This may be a historical allusion to the "Nero redivivus" myth, which asserted that Nero would come back to life, and return with a large eastern army (Parthians), and attack Rome (cf. Sibylline Oracles, books III-V).

"And the whole world was amazed and followed after the beast" Satan will use miracles to convince the unbelieving world to follow him (cf. Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:5; Revelation 17:8), which is another parody of Christ. The world was impressed by the power of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:13; now their fickleness is seen in their worshiping the beast.

Revelation 13:4 "they worshiped the dragon. . .and they worshiped the beast" Evil desires not only political power, but religious worship (cf. Revelation 13:8). Satan wants worship (cf. Revelation 13:12; Revelation 14:9, Revelation 14:11; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; Matthew 4:8-9). He wants to be like God (cf. possibly Isaiah 14:12-15). Implicitly, this is related to the Serpent's lie in Genesis 3:5 and in Matthew 4:9; Luke 4:5-7.

"Who is like the beast" There have been three suggested origins for this phrase. Some see it as

1. a parody for the title of YHWH found in Exodus 15:11; Psalms 35:10; Psalms 113:4

2. a parody of YHWH in Isaiah 40:18-22; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 44:8, Isaiah 44:9-20 45:6

3. a reference to Leviathan and Behemoth in Jewish apocalyptic literature (one example in the OT is Job 41:0, especially Rev. 13:33-34)

Revelation 13:5 In Revelation 13:5-7 and Revelation 13:14-15 there are several passive verbs which imply that permission was given by Satan and ultimately by God (cf. Job). God is using Satan for His own purposes! Evil reveals its own motives by its words and actions.

"a mouth speaking arrogant words" This is an allusion to:

1. "the beast" in Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:20, Daniel 7:25; Daniel 11:36

2. Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Daniel 8:0; I Macc. 1:24

3. "the man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2:4

4. the abomination of desolation of Matthew 24:15, which refers to the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem under the Roman general, and later Emperor, Titus, in A.D. 70

This is a good example of how the historical focus of these symbols changes. In Daniel 8:0 it refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the interbiblical period; in Matthew 24:0 it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and in Daniel 7:0 (and possibly Daniel 11:36-39) it refers to the activity of the end-time Antichrist.

"to act for forty-two months" This is a direct allusion to Daniel 7:25. It was first mentioned in Revelation 11:2-3. It is a metaphor which denotes a period of persecution. See Special Topic at Revelation 11:2 and notes at Revelation 12:6.

Revelation 13:6 "he opened his mouth in blasphemies" There is either a two or three-fold blasphemy in this verse against God's name, God's tabernacle, and God's people. It depends on how one translates this Greek phrase.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/revelation-12.html. 2021.
Ads FreeProfile