Revelation 12 is fascinating. We have already seen views of end time events in the throne room of God in heaven (the “third heaven”). We have also seen views on earth and in the atmosphere (the “first heaven”). Now we are privileged to see a view of end time events as they appear in the universe (the “second heaven”). Revelation 12 gives a sweeping overview of God’s redemption plan through a unique vantage point. Let’s go through it verse by verse:
Verse 1 – 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.
There is no reason to believe anything other than that this is an alignment that appears in the heavens (constellations). God placed the sun, moon, and the stars deliberately, and He controls their movements (Genesis 1:14). The only woman constellation is Virgo. This vision is reminiscent of Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11. This sign appears in the heavens in one time only in human history – September 23, 2017.
Verse 2 – She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
The heavens obviously can’t be pregnant, but the theme of labor pains and birth is used to describe the “discomfort” of the end of the age in multiple places in scripture. (Isaiah 26; Matthew 24)
Verse 3 – And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
This is “another sign”, separate and distinct from the “great sign” in verse 1-2. The dragon constellations include Draco, Serpens, and Hydra. Some suspect a mysterious planet or planetary system could be involved. As of the time of this post, no one is truly sure how the dragon sign will play out, although it will likely become clear as the time of its fulfillment is imminent. The seven-headed, ten-horned dragon is clearly Satan. (We are told this in Rev 12:9 and Rev 20:2) Elsewhere, we see a seven-headed, ten-horned Beast (Daniel & Revelation), which is also Satan, or the human kings he controls. The heads are wearing diadems (like crowns); elsewhere we are told they are kings.
Verse 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.
The Bible refers to angels as “stars of heaven” a few times, such as in Job 38:7. It is assumed that this third of the stars of heaven is the portion of the angelic host that joined Satan/Lucifer in his initial rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-17). When they fell, they were cast to the earth, where they are now the powers, principalities, and rulers of this present world (Eph 6:12). The dragon isn’t devouring the woman, he is anticipating devouring her child.
Verse 5 – 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,
Okay, so here is where it gets interesting. Using an interlinear translation, we see the woman give birth to a male huion arsen (Strong’s 5207 and 730). This male child is to shepherd the nations with a rod of iron. The woman is identified as Israel (the corporate entity), who brings forth Jesus (the male child). Or is it?
We see “but her child was caught up”. Is this Jesus’ ascension? Was Jesus caught up, snatched out of imminent danger from the dragon?
Acts 1:9, Jesus is lifted up (eperthe – Strong’s 1869) until He is hidden from view. We see this in 19 other instances and it means exalts or lifts itself, lifting up voice or eyes, lifting up, turning gaze. This child in Rev 12:5 is herpasthe (Strong’s 726) . Where else do we see Strong’s Greek 726? 1 Thessalonians 4:17 – Those who are alive and remain will be caught up together…; 2 Cor. 12:2, 4 Paul is caught up to the third heaven; Acts 23:10 – take him away from them by force; Acts 8:39 – Philip is snatched by the Spirit of the Lord. There are 14 instances of this word and it means plucked, seized, snatched suddenly and forcefully. There is quite a difference between being lifted or raised and being snatched or seized, isn’t there?
So what does this mean? Well, let’s take a look at the child who is snatched. Is it the same child as the male child – huion arsen? Well, no, in fact, it isn’t. This child is teknon (Strong’s 5043). This is a commonly used word to mean children, child, descendant (gender neutral). Who could this be? If the woman represents the corporate entity of Israel, the child (neutral gender) represents the corporate entity of the church. The church that is snatched up, suddenly and forcefully. For an excellent discussion of the child in Revelation 12:5, please see – Who is the Male Child in Revelation 12?
Jesus, the male child, is birthed first, as the Head. Next we see the gender neutral corporate child born, the Body. Just as in typical childbirth, the Head precedes the Body. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that often in the New Testament Christ is referred to as the Head of the Church and we are the Body of Christ! (It’s also possible that Revelation 12:5 is *only* talking about the church as the child)
The dragon doesn’t succeed in devouring either child. Nothing can stop Christ from accomplishing the redemption of His people. Hallelujah!
Note in Rev 2:26-27, the overcomers in Thyatira – but applicable to all believers – who continue in Jesus’ work until the end, will also receive authority over the nations and rule them with an iron rod, just as Jesus received authority from His Father.
So we see the woman (Israel), the Church (gender neutral child/descendant), but do we see tribulation gentile believers? We do. In verse 17, the woman has other offspring (spermatos Strong’s 4690), who we are told are those who keep God’s commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus. Since the woman is securely hiding in the desert at this point, these offspring must be gentile believers.
Is the Great Sign of 12:1-2 connected to the birth of the male child, Jesus? If you are interested in the star signs surrounding Jesus’ birth, I suggest you view This Documentary on the Star of Bethlehem. Is the Great Sign connected to the snatching of the child in verse 5? There are people studying those very things, detailed at Unsealed.
Verse 6 – 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.
Here we skip forward to view the fate of the woman, at some point after her child has been snatched. John Abent in his book “Signs in the Heavens” suggests that the 144,000 sealed Jews flee to the wilderness right away after the rapture/seal 6 events (between Seal 6 & Seal 7, or perhaps during the pause after Seal 7 before Trumpet 1). He sees the 2 witnesses as instructing them there in the wilderness, teaching them as Jesus taught His disciples for 3.5 years. If this is correct, it would give a huge key to the timeline in Revelation – defining two consecutive 1260 day time periods. We already know the 70th week of Daniel is “one week” of 360-day years (i.e. 7 years of 360 days each). This is clarified by a few mentions of 1260 day, 42 month, and “time, times, and half a time” time periods in both Daniel and Revelation. The difficulty is in connecting the two halves together, and this may be the key. If this view is correct, the woman (144,000 elect Jews) flees to the wilderness at the start of the 70th week of Daniel, which begins at the signing/strengthening of a 7 year covenant. After 1260 days, the abomination of desolation would occur, and the watching faithful Jews would join these in the wilderness for the last 1260 days (see v14) of “Great Tribulation” described in Matthew 24. [Totally unrelated, but I have heard speculated that God will again provide manna for them – wouldn’t that be so wonderful!]
Now, because we are viewing a grand panorama, I also believe this verse could just be identifying the woman as faithful Jews through a reference to the 1260 days. It is telling us who she is and what will become of her. Thus, the 1260 days might refer to a later time point, after the abomination of desolation event, discussed later in chapter 12.
Verse 7 – Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,
“Now” brings us back to a different part of the vision, back to the dragon of verse 3-4. Is the war in heaven when the child is snatched? Is it when the woman flees? We are not told what causes the battle, but the most likely scenario would be the rapture of the Church. MacArthur makes the interesting suggestion that the prince of the power of the air and his demon hosts may try to hinder the passage of the raptured believers as they pass through their realm (Rev 12:3-4), which would trigger the battle with Michael and the holy angels (Rev 12:7-8). I believe this has very strong merit, as the dragon is poised to devour the child as it is being born. Regardless, this must be some battle to watch!
Verse 8 – but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
There is no longer any place for Satan and his demons in heaven. “Place” here doesn’t so much refer to space or room, but to purpose. Satan, after his initial fall, retained access to God’s throne in order to accuse believers before Him (remember the book of Job?). There’s no longer any purpose/place for him to do so, because there’s no longer any believers left to accuse.
Verse 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.
This is not the time of Satan’s original fall. His abode is currently on earth, where he rules as the prince. We are told here that he has retained access to God and heaven. He now loses that access. Why? We are told in the next verse. I see possible connection between this casting down of Satan and his horde in verse nine with Seal 6, where the “stars” fall from heaven to the earth (Rev 6:13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind). Obviously they can’t be literal stars; however, they could be asteroids/meteors. In v4 we are already introduced to the fallen angels as being “stars” and we know Satan and the demons are cast down to the earth here so it’s not a stretch to see the “stars” as falling to earth. The strong wind could be associated with the Holy Spirit ascending back to heaven with us – the removal of the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2 (the reverse of the Holy Spirit descending as a strong wind from heaven on Pentecost, detailed in the book of Acts).
We are told in 2 Thessalonians 2 that Satan has a great deception, and that God will send a powerful delusion for the earth-dwellers to believe Satan’s lies. I believe this deception/delusion will be supernatural and involve his “stars” in some form or another.
Verse 10 – 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.
Salvation has come through the power of Christ – the power of resurrection and eternal life – our blessed hope, the rapture! Refer to the Great Multitude in Revelation 7 who are singing about Salvation – this is another view of that same great event!
Verse 11 – And 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.
Those who persisted in faith until the end (death for those who died, the moment of the rapture for those yet living) are the overcomers! The word of our testimony is that we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord! The blood of the Lamb is our righteousness!
Verse 12 – 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!”
We see again the extremes of rejoicing in heaven contrasted with the woes on earth. This is a theme throughout the book of Revelation. The Restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2 (the Holy Spirit indwelling in the body of Christ) has now been removed, and Satan is about to unleash his deception. It’s the time of Satan’s great wrath yes, but Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. God will use Satan for His purposes, to fulfill the time of Jacob’s Trouble and the Day of the Lord.
Verse 13 – 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.
Satan will start by pursuing Israel (note the word is pursuing, not devouring or attacking). [This may include the Isaiah 17/Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39 wars if these have not yet occurred, but I tend to think they have probably already occurred pre- or coincident with the rapture, leaving a power vacuum on earth]. I believe this pursuing will certainly include the rise to power of the antichrist and the signing of the covenant that starts the 70th week of Daniel. Instead of viewing the pursuing as open and hostile aggression, though, I tend to view it as manipulative and cunning.
Imagine that Satan tries to woo Israel with her long-awaited messiah. [I will develop this thought more fully in the discussion of Mystery Babylon and the discussion of the Antichrist.]
Verse 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.
When the abomination of desolation is placed in the Third Temple, observing Jews will recognize the warning of Jesus and flee to the wilderness as directed. This was also referenced in verse 6. Time, Times, and Half a Time is confirmed thus as 1260 days. The wings of the eagle and flight here refer to the speed with which she flees. There is also connection to being sheltered under the wings of the Lord (see: The Woman Flees to a Place Prepared).
Verse 15 – The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.
Truly, not sure what this is going to look like. Literal water? Possibly. However, it is more likely to be armed troops or demonic entities that chase elect Israel as she flees. I base this on the 6th Bowl judgment, where impure spirits also flow from the mouths of the dragon, beast, and false prophet – “Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs” (Revelation 16:13-14).
Verse 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.
Whatever it is, God saves the fleeing Jews from it. It’s possible the earth literally “opens its mouth”, like sinkholes opening up or an earthquake.
Verse 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. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
Here we have more offspring of the woman. They aren’t the Church (the child who was snatched off to heaven in verse 5), nor are they the Woman (who flees to the wilderness). These are the gentile tribulation believers – the “tribulation saints”. While the woman is being protected in the wilderness, we find out in Revelation chapter 13 that these saints will be given into Satan’s hand. Many will become martyrs.
And thus concludes Revelation chapter 12, with the beast about to rise out of the sea. Chapter 13 will give an overview of the time of “greatest tribulation”, the antichrist’s 1260 days of rule during the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.
A Disclaimer: The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!