This chapter of Revelation begins the second series of visions of the book of Revelation. The visions of this section portray the effect on society that took place with the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The visions also picture the church under persecution, but reveal the victory of the church at any time in history, as well as, the victory of the church at the end of time. Beginning with this chapter, and extending through the end of chapter 14, John first records the visions that picture the beginning of the gospel dispensation. He then records the effects of the gospel that continue throughout the gospel dispensation until the end of time. He seeks to encourage the saints by reminding them that Jesus has already given them the victory. They must stay in the battle. They already know the final score of the game. They win! Therefore, they must simply stay in the game. The persecuted must always understand that their victory is their faith.
THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON
12:1 There appeared great wonder in heaven: The following battle between good and evil takes place in the spiritual world. It is not a physical battle since it is between the forces of evil and good. John writes from the viewpoint of heaven. In vision he is viewing the events from heaven’s viewpoint. A woman: This is a reference to God’s remnant of those Jews who were sons of Abraham by faith (vss 5,17; see Is 54:5,6; Mc 4:10; Rm 3,4; compare Gl 3:26; Ep 3:15). This remnant of the twelve tribes of Israel came into the church of Christ because their faith moved them to respond to Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. It was the seed of the woman (the church) that was persecuted after the church was established (See vs 17). Clothed: She was clothed with the heavenly glory that is characteristic of the sons of God (See Gl 3:26,27). Twelve stars: The heritage of the woman would be in the twelve tribes of Israel who were the manifestation of God’s people before the coming of the Messiah. It was from the Jews that Jesus was born. It was also from the Jews that the first members of the church originated (At 2:41,47).
12:2 She cried out in labor: Hatred of the Christ child began even before His birth (Mt 2:13-21). Righteous Jews by faith even endured suffering and persecution in hope of the birth of the Deliverer (Lk 2:25; Rm 8:22). Jesus said during His ministry, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12).
12:3 A great, fiery red dragon: Satan is here pictured behind the scenes (See verses 9,13; 13:2,4,11; 20:2). He is waiting with evil forces in order to destroy the Seed of woman he knows will deliver him a crushing blow (Gn 3:15; see Is 24:1; Jn 12:31). Satan did not know the mystery of God before it was revealed. However, he knew that something was up when the Deliverer was about to be born into the world (See 1 Pt 1:10-12). Seven heads and ten horns: In view of 17:10,12, this could be the full wisdom and power of worldly governments and institutions that Satan uses against the work of God through His people (See 13:1; 17:3,4,12,16). As will be explained in chapter 17, this could refer to the Caesars of the Roman Empire, which Empire is here beginning to rise up in persecution against the saints of God. Seven diadems: These are not crowns of victory (See 13:1; 19:12). They indicate royal power or rule.
12:4 His tail drew a third of the stars: Here is symbolized the power of Satan to deceive the nations (“stars”). It is within this environment of deceived national leaders and nations that the community of God must live until the end of time on earth. Because the inhabitants of the nations have been deceived by Satan, they often present an environment that is hostile to Christianity. The dragon stood before the woman: This is simply one more attempt by Satan to destroy the Seed of the seedline of woman that began in the garden of Eden (Gn 3:15). Satan had sought in the past to destroy the seedline. He now seeks to destroy the Seed in order that the foreplanned crushing blow by the Seed not be inflicted upon his control over the nations (See Ep 3:8-13).
12:5 A male child: Jesus is born into the world as the rod of iron (Ps 2:9). Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: It was prophesied that Jesus would be King of kings and Lord of Lords (Dn 7:13,14; Lk 1:31,32). Since His ascension to the right hand of God, He has exercised this reign over all things (Ep 1:20-22; Ph 2:8-11; 1 Tm 6:15). His kingdom reign was never meant to be an earthly kingdom (See comments Jn 18:36-38). His rule was always meant to be from heaven in the obedient hearts of men on earth who submit to the power of His word (See Lk 17:20,21; see Rv 2:27; Rm 1:16). Caught up to God: Satan assumed he had gained victory over Jesus at the moment of His death on the cross. However, Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Satan thought he maintained control over all the world by His deception of the nations. However, Jesus ascended to the right hand of God to receive authority over all things (Ep 1:20-22; Hb 8:1).
12:6 The woman fled into the wilderness: Because of persecution, the sons of God by faith who brought forth the Messiah, now flee into the wilderness from persecution. However, though they are persecuted, God continues to care for His people. He providentially watches over those who are His (Mt 18:18-20; 23:20). The time in the wilderness is 1,260 days (11:2,3). It is a determined time set by God until His deliverance of His people from persecution.
12:7-9 There was a war in heaven: John writes from a heavenly viewpoint in explaining that spiritual warfare broke out in the heavenly realm. Michael: This angel’s name means “who is like God” (See comments Jd 9; see Dn 10:13,21; 12;1). Michael is the archangel (1 Th 4:16; Jd 9). However, in reference to the birth of Jesus we must keep in mind that Gabriel played a significant role in both announcing the birth of the male child Christ, as well as, in His protection from the wicked hands of Herod (See Lk 1,2). The great dragon was cast out: He was cast down in the spiritual realm (vs 10). Before Jesus came into this world, Satan controlled the world by the power of his deception. However, beginning with the ministry of Jesus, Jesus’ word and works have cast Satan and his forces down from their control over all humanity of the world (See 20:1-6; Jn 12:31; 16:11; Mt 12:29; Lk 10:18; 11:21ff). Those who hear and believe the gospel are not under the deceptive control of Satan. When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He signalled the resurrection of all men at the end of time (Jn 5:28,29). When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, He became King and head over all things for the sake of the church (Ep 1:20-22). Every aspect of Jesus’ work was against Satan in order to cast him down. John’s visions show that Satan was defeated on earth by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Satan’s power in the heavenly realm was defeated by Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father to receive kingdom reign over all things. This vision actually symbolizes a conflict that raged since the garden of Eden but came to its climax with the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The conflict simply carries on with Satan’s attack against the spiritual seedline of the Lamb, that is, the church. Satan lost the battle against the Seed at Calvary and the garden tomb. He now thinks he can win the battle against the sons of the kingdom of the Seed.
12:10 Now the salvation … the kingdom … have come: The eternal plan of redemption was accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (See Ep 1:3-14; 3:1-11). The predestined redemption through the cross and resurrection have taken affect in the lives of men through the preaching of the gospel to all nations (Mt 28:19,20; Mk 16:15). Men can now free-morally choose to allow the kingdom reign of Jesus to come into their hearts (See comments Mt 6:9,10; Lk 17:20,21). They have been delivered from the fear of physical death (Hb 2:14,15). Cast down: When men choose to allow the will of the Father to be done on earth in their hearts as it is done in heaven, Satan is cast down. Jesus’ ministry began the defeat of Satan (Jn 12:31). The final blow came with the events of the cross and resurrection (See Cl 2:15; 1 Co 15:1-4,56; Hb 2:14). What subsequently followed in Acts 2 was the first official announcement of the kingdom reign of Jesus (At 2:29-36). When men and women submitted to the kingdom reign of Jesus, His reign was established in the hearts of men (See 1:9; 11:15; Dn 2:44; 7:13,14; Mt 16:18,19; Cl 1:13).
12:11 Overcame him by the blood … by the word: The saints had power over the results of their sins by the power of the cleansing blood of Jesus (7:14; At 20:28; see 1 Jn 1:7). They had power over the kingdom of darkness by the power of the gospel (Rm 1:16) and the word of God that they preached (1:9; 6:9; Hb 4:12). They were willing to suffer unto death because they knew that death was only a transition into a better realm (2:10; See At 22:4; Ph 1:23; Hb 2:14,15).
12:12 Has a short time: In comparison to eternity, the time Satan has before being cast into the torment of hell is short (Mt 25:41). Knowing that there will be an eventual end of Satan does bring comfort. Christians know that they will eventually enter into an environment that will be free from the presence of Satan and his deceived followers (See Rm 9:28; 1 Co 7:29; Rv 3:11; 10:6; compare Rv 6:11; 20:3,7). However, because Satan knows that his time is limited, he unleashes all his powers against the unregenerate world (“the earth”) and the masses of humanity (“the sea”). It is his goal to destroy the work of the Seed by taking as many of the inhabitants of the world as possible into his realm of deception, and eventually, into his own eternal destiny of a fiery hell (Mt 25:41).
12:13 When Satan was defeated by Michael at the birth of the male Child (vss 7-9), he turned his powers to incite persecution against the spiritual heritage of the woman. He thus launched his attack against the saints of God who were to live after the establishment of the kingdom reign of the Christ (Jn 15:20; At 8:4). All who determined to serve the King of kings made themselves the enemies of Satan.
12:14 Fly into the wilderness: Wings signify God’s deliverance of His servants (See Ex 19:4; Dt 32:3,11; Is 40:31; Ps 36:7). He providentially protects His people from those who would seek to destroy His work through them. A time and times and half a time: The number three and a half is one half of seven which is the number that represents God’s perfection and completion of eternal redemption. Three and a half, therefore, symbolizes a limited time of turmoil and trouble for those who suffer as a result of those who work against God’s cause. This is the same period of time as the forty-two months and 1,260 days (See 11:2,3; compare Dn 7:25; 12:7). Reference here could be to the time when the church was under the persecution of Judaism and the Roman Empire. Reference could also be generic in the sense of having application to the time until the end of time. It will be at the end of all things that the true instigator of persecution, that is, Satan, will finally be destroyed in the lake of fire (Mt 25:41). However, in the context of John’s message, reference must be primarily to his audience who would suffer the intensity of Roman State persecution.
12:15,16 Water … like a flood: Satan uses every form of destructive force—lies, false philosophies, false religions, malicious slander, wicked governments—against the church in an effort to destroy her (Ps 69:15; 90:5; Dn 9:26; 11:22; Is 59:19; Jr 46:7; see Js 3:14,15; 4:1ff). The minds of the unregenerate inhabitants of the world soaked up the lies and falsehoods of Satan. As dry riverbeds, the willingness of men to be deceived by the lies of Satan is unending. However, because the church is not of the world, she can know that those things that the world believes are certainly not the truth of God. And thus, she shuns the empty philosophies of the world and does not believe such simply because those of the body love the truth (See 2 Th 2:10-12). The church derives truth from God, not deceptions of the world.
12:17 Rest of her seed: Satan launched his war against those who were the Israel by faith in order to destroy the birth of the Seed of woman. But he failed. He then turned his attack against the heritage of the Israel by faith (the church) in order to take his rage out on the saints of God. John now moves us into this rage of Satan against the saints of the 1st century. Satan raises up religious and state persecution in order to destroy the church. However, as John will reveal to us, Satan can never win against the saints of God. God takes Satan’s work and turns it against him.
[Next lecture: The Sea Beast – April 9]