Revelation Chapter 12

THE PRIMARY PROBLEM (Revelation 12:1-17)


(1) In this chapter, we have the beginning of the second main section of the conflict in the Book of Revelation. This section will cover chapters 12-22. It tells the same story as the first main section (chapters 4-11), but instead of the emphasis being on the “Conquering Christ” as it was in the first section, the emphasis here is on the “Victorious Church.” In the first main section, the emphasis seems to be on the wrath of the Lamb on the wicked (Rev. 6:16-17), but in this second section the emphasis is on Christ protecting His bride from her enemies.

(2) As we begin this second section in chapter twelve, we are shown what the real problem is, and what it has always been. This chapter reveals that Satan is the principle cause of the persecution of believers in all ages and the main one responsible for the persecution facing the churches in the first century to whom John was writing. Therefore, our title for this chapter is “The Primary Problem.”


I. THE WOMAN (12:1-6)

(1) Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. The woman stands for the people of God—the faithful in Israel. Her position and appearance symbolically describe her exalted state. Her being with child shows that she is responsible for Christ being in the world and finally exalted into heaven. The woman here is not “Mary” but simply symbolizes the faithful believers in Israel of which Mary was a part. In other words, God used His faithful people—which are represented by the “woman”—to bring Christ into the world so that He could save the world.

(2) And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. The dragon is the devil. He is “great” because of his power. The fact that he cast a third part of the stars to the earth serves to stress his power and influence. He is “red” possibly because of his murderous character (John 8:44) as well as his thirst for the blood of God’s people. His seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns serve to further emphasize his great authority, power and ability to rule. The fact that he wanted to “devour” the woman’s Child shows that the main object of the devil’s rage is against Christ and His people. (See also 1 Peter 5:8).

(3) She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. This “Child” that was “caught up to God” serves to emphasize that Christ is the reason for the devil persecuting the church. It is Satan’s hatred of the “Child” and His mission to save man that causes him to want to destroy the woman (believers). The fact that Jesus would be resurrected, caught up to God and rule with a “rod of iron” was exactly what David taught about Him in the second Psalm (Ps. 2:7-9).

II. THE WAR (12:7-12)

(1) And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought…This spiritual war that apparently was started by Satan in heaven has continued ever since it began. John seeing the vision here serves to emphasize that the battle is still raging. Therefore Satan sought to stop the “woman” (people of God) from bringing Jesus into the world because of his pride, rebellious attitude, and hatred (Ezek. 28:12-17). He wanted to prevent God from accomplishing His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ (Eph. 3:10-11). But Jesus was born and ascended to the throne and the attempts of Satan to accuse those who believe in the “Man Child” will always fail. This war that John now sees also serves to assure Christians that the cause of the “woman” will triumph over the devil and his angels. The victory pictured here stresses the victory of the cause of Christ over the forces of evil. Just as in the beginning of the first main section of Revelation (ch. 4) we are shown who is on the throne and who is in control, here we are shown at the beginning of the second section (ch. 12) that the forces of Satan will not overcome the woman and the cause for which Christ died. This seems to be a picture of an actual war that took place in heaven that occurred before or just after the creation of man in which Satan led a third of the angels in rebellion against God. John sees a vision of that “original war” in order to illustrate that the war is still going on and that just as God defeated Satan in the beginning, so He will do in the present conflict that they were facing involving the church and the devil. Satan and his angels did sin against God (see 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6). Therefore, “hell” is prepared for the “devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). Allowing John to see a vision of the original war with Satan would serve a three-fold purpose: First, it would show mankind where the devil came from, and hence the real cause of our spiritual problems. Second, it would serve to verify the reason Satan is relentless in efforts to destroy the people of God and the cause for which Christ died. And third, it would assure the readers of John’s day (as well as all believers of all time) that as Satan could not overcome God in the beginning, so he cannot destroy God’s purpose in any present or future conflict.

(2) For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. This may refer to the fact that Satan knew if he could not destroy the church with the powerful agents he was using in the first century (both political and religious) then he would never be able to destroy her with any force—and he did not have long to do it (Rev. 6:9-11). If he failed with his most powerful weapons that are later identified as Rome and “Babylon” then he wouldn’t be able to succeed with any force and he knew that he only had a “short time!” On the other hand, this may mean that, viewed in light of eternity, Satan knows he only has a “short time” in which to destroy the church. Either way he cannot win, but will always try.

III. THE WINGS (12:13-17)

(1) Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. When Satan saw that he was defeated in his effort to stop the “Child” of the woman from accomplishing His mission, he was full of wrath and began to persecute the woman (people of God) and the rest of her seed (converts), with a great flood of persecution.

(2) But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. In the vision, John saw the woman given two wings of an eagle or help she needed in order to avoid destruction from the serpent (see Exodus 19:4). There in the wilderness, she is nourished and protected from the serpent’s effort to totally destroy her. This is a time of persecution under consideration which occurred during a certain period in the first century referred to as “time and time and half a time” or three and one half years.

CONCLUSION: This chapter begins the second main section of the Book of Revelation as far as the conflict is concerned (Rev. 12-22). In this section, the emphasis is on the Victorious Church. As we begin this second section we are shown the “Primary Problem” behind the persecution of the church—which is the devil. In this chapter, we saw a woman who brought forth a Male-Child, but there was a great red dragon which was ready to devour her Child as soon as it was born. He was not successful, however, and the Child was caught up to God and His throne. Afterward, there was a war in heaven in which Satan was defeated and cast out, which illustrates why Satan is so relentless in persecuting the people of God. Even though he was cast out and defeated, he persecuted the woman (people of God), but she was given two wings of an eagle and therefore escaped his efforts to destroy her by persecution. In the next chapter, we will see the agents that Satan uses in his efforts to destroy the church.

Wayne Dunaway

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