Revelation 12

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Revelation 12

(Rev 11:19) Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

A. 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

B. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

C. 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

D. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.

C’. 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.13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

B’. 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

A’. 15 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 flood. 16 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. 17And 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.

Introduction – Declarations of War

The chapter break probably should have occurred after 11:18. Here the scene shifted to the heavenly throne room, and this perspective is continued in Chapter 12.

Things that began in Genesis have their fulfillment in Revelation. In the account of the Fall, we actually have two declarations of war. In Genesis 3:1-5 we have the serpent declaring war on humanity, and then in Genesis 3:15, we have God declaring war on the serpent.

Genesis 3:1-19

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

  • In 3:15 the word for offspring is literally seed. Missler points out this is a biological “contradiction.” The seed is in the man, not the woman. Missler sees a hint of the virgin birth way back in Genesis 3. In any case, the war between the seeds has raged for the last 6000 years.

  • As we continue with these complex visions, we are reminded that in Revelation 1:19, John was told, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.”

  • In other words, strictly speaking, John is supposed to be a court reporter. He’s not supposed to comment, interpret, or rework the visions to fit his understanding. Many commentators interpret these chapters as a coded diatribe against Rome, which might be true of John was tailoring the work to fit his own viewpoint. He did that in his epistles and his gospel, but he was specifically told NOT to do that with Revelation. We know from the text that at certain points John is as clueless as we are about what is going on.

  • This is a glimpse into the supernatural world, which is very difficult for us because we live in the natural world. At the same time, God commands us to read and understand this book to the best of our abilities. Frequently this involves going beyond John’s immediate situation with the Roman empire and into the world of the Old Testament prophets, who wrote during the Babylonian and Persian empires, and of Moses who wrote during the Egyptian dynasties.

Rev 12:1-2

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

  • As we mentioned, the chapter should have begun with 11:19, so we are still in Heaven and we need to connect the Ark of the Covenant with the woman clothed with the sun.

  • “Ancient readers familiar with the Bible would especially recognize here the story of Israel giving birth to Jesus and Satan’s opposition to God’s people.” Keener

  • This may not be so much forecasting a future event as it is a retelling of past events from the spiritual (warfare) perspective.

    • On earth, we are bound by the dimension of time. Einstein proved that time is a physical property that varies with mass, acceleration, and gravity. God is not subject to time and heaven is not bound by time. This means our past and our future as seen from earth are somehow morphed together from the heavenly perspective.

    • In verse 1, we begin with Jacob and the 12 tribes.

      • The verse specifically references Joseph’s prophecy: Gen 37:9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

      • Where it is obvious, we don’t have to speculate. We let Scripture define Scripture.

      • Joseph himself is the 12th star, his 11 other brothers are the 11th star, and the Sun and Moon are Isaac and Rebekkah – in other words, the woman clothed with the sun moon and 12 stars is the nation Israel.

    • In verse 2, we have the woman, the nation Israel, in her ups and downs as she prepares to bring forth her Messiah.

      • Isaiah 66:7-10 “Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she brought forth her children.

      • The Dead Sea Scrolls also spoke of the righteous remnant of Israel travailing to give birth (either to a saved Israel—cf. Rev 12:17—or to the Messiah; the precise referent is disputed – perhaps both are true). Cf. Joh 16:21.

  • Some have speculated that the woman is the Church, but the Church did not give birth to the Messiah. We also have a type problem – the church is the virgin bride of Christ, but here the woman is pregnant.

  • Others speculated Mary. While Mary was the literal, immediate mother of the Messiah, this vision of the woman and the dragon goes far beyond literal Mary.

  • This is the 2nd of four women in Revelation:

    • Jezebel Rev 2:20

    • Israel Rev 12:1

      • The nation is often portrayed as the bride of Adonai; sometimes faithful, sometimes not.

      • The giving of the Torah at Sinai is very similar to a Jewish wedding celebration.

      • She is also often described as a woman in travail.

    • The harlot who rides the beast Rev 17:3

    • The Bride Rev 19:7

  • Replacement Theology

    • Some scholars refuse to see this woman as Israel because they hold to a doctrine called “Replacement Theology.”

    • This is the view that when Israel rejected her Messiah, she forfeited the promises. Those promises transferred to the Church, making the church “Spiritual Israel”

    • Problems with Replacement Theology

      • Most of the promises were UNCONDITIONAL – if something is given to you unconditionally, there is nothing you can do to violate the terms.

      • Romans 9-11 state very clearly that God has NOT forsaken Israel.

      • Jesus has yet to fulfill the promise given to Mary to take DAVID’S throne (Luke 1:21).

    • As we are demonstrating, Revelation is a work of Jewish apocalyptic literature. Israel is in view; a fact that is underscored by beginning this section with the Ark of the Covenant, symbolic of all of God’s promises and covenants to Israel which remain in full force and effect.

Rev 12:3

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

  • We learn from verse 9 that the dragon is identified with the serpent of Genesis 3, the devil, and Satan.

  • The word for red only appears here and in Rev 6:5, the red horse. In other words, we should associate it with blood and death.

  • There were ancient myths about seven-headed creatures (Babylon, Greece, and even the Leviathan mentioned in Psalms, Isaiah, and Job is viewed as a primeval serpent.

  • Ten horns recall the prophecies of Daniel of the fourth major empire, (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and ROME) – note here they are wearing diadems.

    • Dan 7:24-25 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law, and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.

    • We will see this beast again in Revelation 13.

    • Note this verse says only 10 horns, nothing about seven heads.

    • It is possible that John is seeing a combination of all four of Daniel’s beasts rolled into one dragon:

      • Beast #1 (Dan 7:4) – Lion (presumed to be Babylon) – 1 head and 0 horns

      • Beast #2 – (Dan 7:5) Bear (Medio-Persia) – 1 head and 0 horns

      • Beast #3 – (Dan 7:6) Leopard (Greek) – 4 heads and 0 horns

      • Beast #4 – (Dan 7:7) Dreadful (Rome) – 1 head and 10 horns

      • Total: 7 heads and 10 horns

    • While it is popular to view the beast as a revised roman empire, it could be that Satan is behind ALL of man’s systems and governments from Adam and Eve to today (yes, including America), and will be defeated.

Rev 12:4

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

  • Note the scene shifting from heaven to earth. It’s important to keep track of where we are (and remember our discussion that earth is time-bound while heaven most likely is not).

  • The stars are widely viewed as fallen angels. (Luke 10:18 – “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”.”)

  • From the moment God declared war in Genesis 3:15, the Enemy began his attacks on the Messianic line, beginning with the murder of Abel.

    • The catalyst for the Flood was satan’s attempt to corrupt the human DNA (Genesis 6)

    • Once it became known that the Messiah would come from Judah, satan attacked Judah’s line personally. We can read about that in the sordid tale of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38.

    • Pharaoh tried to wipe out the Hebrews in Exodus 1 and Exodus 14

    • This continues through David and the attacks on him and the royal line of kings.

      • There are instances where all of the brothers are wiped out except for one who was hidden away to keep the line going. (2 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 21, 22)

      • Satan even “tricks” God into pronouncing a bloodcurse upon the royal line: Jer 22:30 Thus says the LORD: “Write this man (Jeconiah) down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.”

        • The messiah has to come from the royal line, yet God just pronounced a curse upon that line? Satan must have been celebrating, but he didn’t read the fineprint.

        • The virgin birth avoids this curse, yet by Joseph being the legal father of Jesus, who is legally Joseph’s firstborn, Jesus has every right to assume David’s throne even though he bears no blood relationship to Jeconiah! His bloodline is through Mary, who is a descendent of David but by a different lineage.

      • Haman’s attempt to wipe out the Jews in exile – Esther 3

  • The beast stood ready to devour the child from the MOMENT HE WAS BORN.

    • Recall the peculiar circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth–

      • An out-of-wedlock conception was potentially a capital offense.

      • Because of a Roman decree, a pregnant woman had to make a strenuous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem – this would have taken several days.

      • Herod ordered the slaughter of the babies because He was worried about a rival to his throne.

      • A family with a newborn has to flee to Egypt and back to Nazareth.

Rev 12:5-6

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

  • Rod of Iron = Messianic Destiny

    • Psalm 2:9

    • Rev 2:27

    • Rev 19:15-16

  • Caught up = harpazo (Greek) = rapturo (Latin)

    • The “body of Christ” was “raptured”?

    • Implied gap between verse 5 and verse 6

  • Fled into the wilderness

    • Here we pivot from our past and into our future

    • Many see this 3.5 year period as the 1st half of the seven year tribulation

    • Israel, the woman, is protected, just as the original Israelites were in the wilderness. While the wilderness is a place of safety, it is also a place of testing, discipline, and waiting on God’s promises.

Rev 12:7-8

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

  • Another scene shift – we’re now back in heaven briefly for the background on how the dragon ended up on earth.

  • War in heaven is a startling verse. I thought heaven was a peaceful place where we rested on clouds and played harps? (kidding).

  • This war symbolizes the spiritual warfare we are in every day – the cosmic battle between good and evil.

Michael

  • One of the chief princes - Dan 10:13

  • The Archangel - Jude 1:9; 1 Thess 4:16

  • Daniel’s prince - Dan 10:21

  • Warrior for Israel - Dan 12:1

  • Fought with Satan for Body of Moses - Jude 9

  • Fought in “Wars of the Lord” - Zech 14:3; Num 21:14

  • Michael is ALWAYS involved in a military mission to protect Israel.

Red Dragon = Satan

  • Origin Ezek 28:2-15

  • Rebellion in heaven - Isa 14:12-17

  • Ancient = beginning Gen 3

  • Deceives the whole world - 2 Cor 4:3,4

  • Liar from the beginning - Gen 3:4, 5; Jn 8:44

  • Enmity with Man - Gen 3:14-15

  • Seven heads, 10 horns - Rev 13:1; 17:3; cf. Dan 7, et al.

Rev 12:9

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

  • At some point, Satan had authority given by God.

    • Job 1:6 says he had access to heaven

    • Peter confirms this authority in 1 Pet 5:8

    • We infer his role was like a prosecuting attorney who went out to test the faithful.

    • In one very odd passage, 2 Chronicles 18:17-22, God permits a deceiving spirit to allow prophets in the northern kingdom to entice the King of Israel to do the wrong thing. There is nothing new under the sun including fake news. Satan is described elsewhere as a deceiver, so scholars infer that the deceiving spirit sent to the king was Satan or one of his underlings.

      • The key thought is that at some point AFTER the fall, Satan still had access to God to accuse.

      • So with this reasoning, the casting out could not have happened before the Fall.

      • We don’t really know when this occurred.

    • At some point Satan was, or will be, permanently banished from God’s presence.

      • When Jesus said “I saw Satan fall,” he could have been using the Prophetic Past tense – meaning He sees it as completed even though it may not have happened on our timeline yet.

      • I don’t think it’s that fruitful to argue whether this banishment has or has not happened yet.

      • Either way, Satan is a real and present threat to us today, and we must have our Armour of Guard on.

    • The Greek is open about whether God specifically cast them down to earth, or merely banished them from heaven, and they happened to choose Earth. Again, this is immaterial from our perspective. Either way, Satan is here.

    • Our hope is that Messiah is about to take over as the rightful ruler of this world. We see this in verse 10.

Rev 12:10-11

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “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 brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered (overcame) him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

  • The accuser no longer can accuse us before God, but now he is going to wreak as much havoc as he can.

  • We have been given the supernatural power to overcome the enemy.

  • Not loving our lives is how we overcome. Are you willing to lay down your life instead of compromising your witness?

Rev 12:12-13

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

  • Heaven and earth are out of harmony with each other. Heaven is rejoicing because Satan is gone from their presence while earth is going through tribulation

  • Woe – technically we do not have a “third woe” statement like we did with the first and second woes. Some commentators see the third woe implied here.

  • A very important theological point (which we all know from experience): satan’s attacks on believing Israel (including grafted-in gentiles) and the Jewish people at large did not end at the Resurrection. They have not stopped after the horrors of the Holocaust came to light.

  • They continue and will continue until evil is defeated.

  • Why would Satan be so interested in non-believing Jews?

  • It’s reasonable to ask why Satan does this even though he knows he won’t be successful. How do most criminals behave when they know they have nothing to lose?

    • Flip that around. You and I have nothing to lose either if we are in Christ. If the evil sin with reckless abandon, how much more should the righteous live our lives sold out for Jesus?

Rev 12:14

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

  • Eagle: Ex 19:4, Deut 2:9-11; Ex 19:4, Deut 32:11-12; Isa 40:31;

  • Wilderness: Dan 11:41; Isa 11:16; Ezekiel 20:35-38; Hos 2:14,15; Zeph 2:3

  • Earth Swallows enemies: Num 16:31,33; Michah 7:15

  • This is the same period of time as was mentioned earlier. Time, times and ½ a time is 1 year + 2 years + ½ year or 3.5 years, or 1260 days.

  • The period of Israel’s protection is the same as it was for the two witnesses to live and prophesy.

Rev 12:15

The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.

  • Satan tries a reversal of Noah’s flood, where God wiped out the demonically corrupted humanoids.

  • The water could be literal water, or symbolic of any destructive force of persecution.

  • When satan opens his mouth, the earth opens up its mouth

Rev 12:16

But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.

  • 13-16 is a cryptic passage (given that the “earth dwellers” are the antagonists, and yet, here the earth comes to the aid of the Woman). Essentially, God wins and comes to the aid of his people, likely the Jewish believers in Messiah.

  • Psalm 124: A Song of Ascents. Of David. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side— let Israel now say— if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Rev 12:17

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

  • If the Jews are the woman’s “primary” offspring who fled to the wilderness, then a reasonable conclusion is that we believing gentiles, grafted-in to the woman, Israel, through faith in Messiah are the “rest of her offspring.”

  • Many Christians believe that we aren’t subject to ANY commandments. This verse (and NUMEROUS others in the New Testament) would say otherwise.

  • If you hold to the testimony of Jesus, you will keep his commandments – anything else is a contradiction. He said “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

  • We don’t keep all 613 commandments, but keep those that Jesus or the other apostolic authors conferred on us (e.g., in Acts 15), plus any others we may voluntarily wish to take on as a form of discipline and as a way to draw closer to our God (not compulsory but voluntarily).

    • In fact, no one person has to keep all 613 as some are applicable to Levites, some apply only if/when a Temple is in operation, some only to women, and many are viewed as not applicable if one is living outside the land.

    • We should keep as many as we are called upon to keep. The number is not zero.

    • Romans 13: 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    • Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

  • Are you keeping the applicable commandments of God, not as a “got-to” but as a “get to”, in order to honor Jesus, acknowledge His lordship over your life, and to demonstrate to others that you are His ambassador?

Mystery verse

And he stood on the sand of the sea.

  • Some manuscripts have, “and I stood on the sand of the sea”

  • Some versions have this at the end of verse 17 (ESV), some create a verse 18 (NLT – “Then the dragon took his stand on the shore beside the sea.” and others insert it at the beginning of Rev 13:1 (KJV/NKJV – “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up…”).

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