Revelation 12 (NRSV)
The Woman and the Dragon
Chapters 12 – 20: The Judgment of Beasts
A great portent appeared in heaven:
This is the first of seven signs that John relates, and is described as a great sign. In Revelation chapters 12, 13, and 14 the main figures of the Great Tribulation are described, and this great sign introduces the first of the seven:
- The woman, representing Israel
- The dragon, representing Satan
- The man-child, referring to Jesus
- The angel Michael, head of the angelic host
- The offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
- The beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
- The beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist
–David Guzik (and all following comments in red)
a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.
The woman appears to be the heavenly representative of God’s people, first as Israel (from whom Jesus the Messiah was born, v. 5), then as the Christian Church (which is persecuted by the dragon, v. 13). (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)
3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.
The dragon is identified in v. 9 as the Devil or Satan.
5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.
Psalm 2:7-9 (NIV)
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
Prepared uses the same ancient Greek word Jesus used in I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2-3). This demonstrates that God’s careful planning works on earth as well as in heaven.
The church is sustained by God. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)
Michael Defeats the Dragon
7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.
This is a dramatic scene of battle between good angels and bad angels, faithful angels and fallen angels. The dragon represents Satan (Revelation 12:9), and Satan is not the counterpart of God — God has no counterpart. If anyone, Satan is the counterpart of Michael, who seems to be the chief angel opposite this chief of fallen angels.
The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 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 single verse uses many different titles for our spiritual enemy, including Dragon, serpent of old, the Devil, Satan, and he who deceives the whole world. These titles describe Satan as vicious, an accuser, an adversary, and a deceiver.
His angels are also the same as the third of the stars of heaven described in Revelation 12:4. Since Satan only drew a third of the stars of heaven, it means that two-thirds of the angels remained faithful to God.
A very strong theme in the Book of Revelation is the frustration of Satan. The story of his failures is told in the visions in chapter 12.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Here are our keys for being an overcomer and getting victory over Satan’s accusations, over his deception, and over his violence!
The blood of the Lamb: Satan can remind us of all our sins and actually our sins may be worse than what he says, but the blood of Jesus has washed us clean and we are made righteous by the work of Jesus on the cross.
The word of our testimony: And once we have seen and heard and experienced God’s love and grace and forgiveness, we can reject his lies. Remember that Martin Luther would rebuke the devil’s temptations, saying, “I am baptized!”
In the face of death: And if we do not cling to our lives, what threat really does Satan have over us? If we believe to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), then how can Satan’s violence against us be effective?
12 Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”
The Dragon Fights Again on Earth
13 So 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. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
15 Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.
16 But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.
What might this mean?
The woman is now the church. The dragon pursues the woman. The Christians of John’s time, suffering under the persecution of the Emperor Domitian, now know that Domitian is the dragon, the devil’s instrument. Ironically, Domitian regarded himself as the incarnation of Apollo, a pagan god.
Given wings, the woman flees to safety, as, possibly, very many Christians had gone, for the present, to be with God. The event then reaches in to the riches of the Exodus story for some of its meaning. The dragon spews water after the fleeing woman, The earth swallows the water, making a safe way for her. The church is saved, just as the people of Israel had been saved during the Exodus when God parted the waters, allowing them to move to safety over dry ground.
–Robert H. Conn
17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.
The First Beast
18 Then the dragon took his stand on the sand of the seashore.
HERE Jeremy Camp sings “Overcome.” Such an encouraging piece!