Revelation Chapter 12 - Part 1
12:1 “A great sign appeared in heaven”: That is, a sign seen from heaven’s viewpoint. “A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars”: The woman here is not specifically Israel or the church, but rather God’s faithful remnant. This woman will produce the Messiah (12:5), and will also exist after Jesus ascends to heaven (12:6). She wears two heavenly bodies, which give light to the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). She cannot be simply Old Testament believers for we read of her being persecuted by the Dragon after she has brought forth the Messiah. Her offspring “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17), that is, they are Christians. Nor yet can we hold her to be simply Christians because she is given existence prior to the birth of the Messiah. Therefore, she simply stands for God’s people. She wears 12 stars that are worked into a crown of victory, thus she stands for God’s victorious people. 12:2 “She was with child”: Though victorious, she has endured periods of trial and pain. Her destiny is to produce the Messiah. “The promise of God and the hope of a messiah, had been in the womb of the faithful remnant since Genesis 3” (Hailey p. 269).
12:3 “A great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his head were seven diadems”: This is Satan (12:9). He is great because of his power, “red” because he is a murderer and is bloodthirsty (John 8:44). “His seven heads indicate fullness of intelligence and infernal wisdom, the master mind of craftiness and cunning which operates through lying and deceit” (2 Corinthians 11:3,13-15). The “ten horns” speak of power and strength and he is the ruler over the realm of evil(Matthew 25:41 “the devil and his angels”). One should note that Satan does not wear the stephanos or victor’s crown; rather, his kingship is one of arrogated dominion.
12:4 “And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth”: The “stars” are often used to speak of God’s people (Daniel 8:10; 24; 12:3; Matthew 13:43). So the allusion here may be that the devil has been able to cast down (persecute, kill or perhaps cause to apostatize) some of God’s people. Some see this as a reference to the devil leading a rebellion of angels against God (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). If the devil can lead such wise men as Solomon astray (1 Kings 11:1ff),then we need to be on our guard constantly (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:7-9). “And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child”: The idea is that the devil from the beginning has been constantly aiming at the destruction of the Christ. “Thus viewed, the entire Old Testament becomes one story, the story of the conflict between the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and the dragon, between Christ and Satan”(Hendriksen p. 136).
Satan’s Near Misses
Only one faithful family left (Genesis 6:5-10)
The aged Abraham and Sarah with no offspring (Genesis 17)
The vulnerable baby Moses in a basket (Exodus 1)
The bondage that seems inescapable (Exodus 1)
The nation in complete apostasy (Exodus 32; Judges 2:9)
David before Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
David hunted by Saul (1 Samuel 18ff)
Athaliah’s attempt to destroy the Messianic line (2 Kings 11:1ff)
Haman’s attempt to destroy all the Jews (Esther)
Herod’s attempt to destroy Jesus (Matthew 2)
12:5 “And 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”: This is Jesus (Psalm 2:1-9). This verse sums up the entire earthly existence of Jesus from His birth to His ascension. The whole experience from birth to coronation is contemplated in the few words of this verse. The “rod of iron” points to the fact that His rule was to be with firmness. The destiny of all nations is in His hands (Acts 17:26; Ephesians 1:20-23). He rules over the church with a scepter of righteousness (Hebrews 1:8), but in the kingdoms of this world with a rod of iron, which infers bringing them to an end as He sees fit (Jeremiah 18; Revelation 19:15). Following His ascension, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (Daniel 7:13-14; Acts 2:30-31; 1 Corinthians 15:25).
12:6 “And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God”: Moses fled from Pharaoh into the wilderness, Israel escaped from Egypt into the wilderness. Elijah fled from the wrath of Jezebel, coming to Sinai were he found protection and received instruction from God. Mary and Joseph eluded the wrath of Herod by fleeing into Egypt. The “wilderness” is the place where God’s people are protected and disciplined. As Israel was nourished by manna in the wilderness, so now, God nourishes spiritual Israel, the church during a time of persecution. “For one thousand two hundred and sixty days”: That is, the time of persecution waged by the beast and the false prophet (11:2-3; 13:5). This section is amplified in verses 12:14-17.
12:7-8 “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven”: Before continuing the fortunes of the woman, we are given a description of a great spiritual conflict. “Michael”, whose name means, “Who is like God?” stands as the dragon’s opponent. He is named three times in the Book of Daniel as “one of the chief princes” (10:13), “the prince of Israel” (10:21; 12:1), who stood for the people against their enemies, Persia and Greece. He is called the “archangel” who contended with the devil over the body of Moses (Jude 9). We are not told when this war took place. The main point seems to be that Satan is defeated and cast down from his high-handed control over men (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8 “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil”; Colossians 2:15 “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him”). Some have thought that this scene looks back to a war fought before the beginning of time in which Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven, but this does not agree with the context. “Picture, if you will, the Dragon racing up to heaven after the man-child. Having been defeated in his earthly career, he would seek to defeat him in heaven. Heaven, where all the battles for the righteous are (as it were) fought and won. Heaven, where the man-child is now at the right hand of God and interceding for his oppressed saints. The thing, which the saints on earth must remember is that the Devil, could not defeat their Master here on earth and he surely cannot beat Him now! The Devil has already been whipped on earth. In this case, he will be whipped in heaven. At the end of this chapter he will be again, on earth. In these first two cases the whipping is in reference to the Master, and in the latter end of this chapter it will relate to the servants of that Master” (McGuiggan p. 174). “A place”: “This speaks of the decisiveness of the defeat. There is nothing implied in the text that the Devil and his angels ‘had a place’ in heaven until this vision. The vision speaks of an assault on heaven. We read of the devil appearing before God, in the book of Job, but the indications there are that he was called to give account of himself, not that he lived or ‘had a place’ there’” (p. 175).
12:9 “And 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”: “Who deceives the whole world”: The study of history will confirm the truthfulness of this statement. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1John 5:19). “Thrown down to earth”: He is still here!
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, who accuses them before our God day and night”: Some feel that the devil’s “place” prior to the death and resurrection was to accuse the faithful before God of their sins. Yet, seeing that the devil himself is a murderer, I do not see how any weight would be given to his accusations. Or, how he would occupy any moral high ground as far as the sins of others are concerned. In addition, from the above verse it seems that the devil still “accuses” us before God even after the resurrection of Jesus. The death of Jesus accomplished three things: 1. Salvation the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:12-14). 2. The kingdom of our God, which is the church, the body of the saved purchased by the blood of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:38,47; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10). 3. The power of Jesus Christ, as the ruler of the kings of the earth and the one who has all authority (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23; 1 Peter 3:22 “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him”). Notice that “salvation”, “the kingdom” and Jesus’ authority all came at the same time. Contrary to the claims of Premillennialists, this battle is not some battle in the middle of a supposed Great Tribulation at the end of time. Salvation came in the first century, and so did the kingdom and Jesus’ rule.
12:11 “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb”: The following are the reasons that Christians were able to overcome the temptations and persecutions brought against them by Satan. “I fervently wish that the Christians would take this to heart. The Devil has been whipped. Our sins are forgiven” (McGuiggan p. 177).
· In view of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the accessibility of forgiveness, why should any of us remain in bondage to any sin? (Romans 6:14; 1 John 1:7-10)
· If we are going to overcome, then we need to have confidence that we can overcome. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
· “Can we know we are saved? Well, can you know you are lost? You can just as easily know you are saved as you can know you are lost” (McGuiggan p. 177).
· Have we been humbled by the tremendous price paid for our salvation?
· Do we give up too easily after we sin? Would we rather feel sorry for ourselves or ask for forgiveness and get back into the battle?
· Do we realize that we are immortal in a sense? That is, as long as we repent and ask for forgiveness, Satan can never keep us in a state of spiritual death. Temptation may kill me, but I can be alive once again in a matter of minutes! (Luke 17:3-4; Galatians 2:11-14).
· Are we making any excuses for that realm or area in our lives where we are not submitting to God? There is a big difference between working to overcome a temptation, striving for complete obedience (Philippians 3:13-16) and feeling that 80% obedience is enough and making other excuses. What says most about our relationship with God is not the part of our lives that is in compliance with God’s word, but that part which is not (Matthew 19:20-21).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017