A Reformation view of Revelation Twelve
(the woman, manchild and dragon)
The book of Revelation is not that difficult if a person understands how it was written. The first thing to understand is that it was signified by the angel of the Lord for John to share with the Church (Revelation 1: 1). The word signified tell us that it was given to John in symbolism rather than a normal literal writing. These symbols tell us things through word pictures that portray a very true reality. For example in Revelation 5: 6 we see Jesus described as a lamb that was slain that had seven eyes and seven horns which were the seven spirits of God. If this scripture had been intended to be taken literally, then this would be what Jesus really looks like in heaven. Do you believe that this is what Jesus looks like in heaven?
There are those Bible teachers that insist that the book of Revelation must be taken literally. In fact John Hagee teaches that during the Tribulation that an angel will actually preach the Gospel in the sky as a final warning to prepare the lost for Judgement day. Tragically this is what happens when we begin to apply a literal interpretation to something that is to be spiritually understood.
Another very important thing to realize is that Revelation is not written chronologically as in a linear writing but is written in a series of cycles that tell and retell the message. I must compare it to the first four Gospels in the New Testament. The four Gospels all tell the same basic message and must be understood as a retelling or we would end up in trouble trying to connect all the dots. In fact if we were to read the four Gospels and try to interpret them chronologically in order we have Jesus being crucified and raised from the dead four different times. Another thing to consider is that they are all a part of the same book, “the New Testament”. This is the way the book of Revelation was written and should be understood.
The cycles that are revealed in this book complement one another the same as the four Gospels. If we were to try and read this book as a chronological or linear writing we would have the coming of Christ happening over and over again plus many other events such as mountains collapsing and islands sinking into the sea. There are six different places within Johns’ vision that tell of Christ’ coming. They are found in the following scriptures: Revelation chapter 6: 12-17; chapter 11: 15-19; chapter 14: 14-20; chapter 16: 16-21; chapter 19: 11-21; chapter 20: 8-13.
The Reformers believed as well as I do myself that the cycles found within this book are seven different visions that John had concerning the revelation. There are real reasons for this. Not only are there seven cycles but the entire book is divided into two parts. The first part covers from Revelation chapter one through chapter 11 and describes the persecution of the Church by the world. The second part covers from Revelation chapter 12 through chapter 22 and it describes the Church being persecuted by Satan. We have an introduction to the book in Chapter 1 and we find a conclusion to the book in chapter 22.
The second part of the book of Revelation begins with chapter 12 that goes back to the beginning of God’s plan and ends with the coming of the Lord in chapter 14. This is a single vision or a cycle found in the second part. This part teaches us about the persecution of Satan upon the Church during the time of John and repeated through out history until the very end.
1: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
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.
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.
In the first verse above we see a great sign, or a wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown with twelve stars. In order to understand this sign we must interpret it with scripture. The following scripture from Genesis is the place to go, it is found in Joseph’s dreams.
Genesis 37: 9: And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
10: And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
11: And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
By looking at this scripture in verse 10 we see that the sun and the moon and the stars is Jacob, his wife and 12 sons, the family of Israel. So this tells us that the woman that is clothed with the sun and supported by the moon with her crown of 12 stars is speaking of Israel. But there is more to this story than for it to be simply “Israel,” why? Because Paul told us that not all of Israel is the Israel of God.
Romans 9: 6-8: Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
What this is telling us is that the true Israel of God is the Israel that believes and trusts in God. It was this way in the Old Testament as well as it is in the New Testament. Those that perished in the wilderness perished because of unbelief. When Jesus came there was only a small group of the people of Israel that still trusted and believed God. Only those Israelites that accepted Jesus were the true Israel of God. They would be born again at Pentecost and those that followed their example continued to be in the true Israel of God. Then the Gentiles that believed were added to this group and they were grafted into their promises right along with them. This would become known as the New Testament Church. It would be out of the true Israel of God that the woman in Revelation 12 represents. The man-child that she is to have is Jesus and is born from the Israel of God, believing Israel. The woman is the Israel of God and it is only fitting that someone from faithful Israel would be the mother of this baby, this is why God chose Mary a daughter of Israel, a woman who believed and trusted God. By faith she gave birth to the promised seed of Abraham, Jesus the Son of God.
Verse two tells us that this woman was crying being in travail or what we call today “laboring” to give birth to a child. The scripture tells that this child was a man-child or simply he was a male child. Although this event was planned from before the foundation of the world, man would not look forward to this birth except for a promise made to Satan in the Garden of Eden followed by many more prophecies in scripture. From the time of Adam and Eve in the garden Satan was seeking to kill this child. This hatred for her seed came when God told Satan in the Garden of Eden that he would bruise the heel of her seed but her seed would bruise his head. Satan knew what this meant and determined to stop this promise from happening. This is why he hated Israel and why he had Saul to throw a spear at David to kill him. He wanted to stop the seed before it was born.
Jesus was the fulfillment of this promised seed. After Jesus was born Satan tried to have him killed through King Herod who ordered the death of all the male children 2 years old and under in Bethlehem. Satan tried in many ways to trick or deceive Jesus during his life in order to defeat him because he knew that if he didn’t, Jesus would defeat him. Verse four says that Satan was waiting for Jesus to come so that he could kill him.
“and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” Satan was unable to do this until finally at last he thought that he had Jesus when Jesus was falsely accused and crucified. But this plan backfired on him and Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
Having been resurrected he ascended to the Father in heaven.
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.
Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven on the throne of David. I like the way Psalms speaks of his reign over this present world it says the following: Psalms:110: 1: The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2: The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
The “rod of iron” and the “rod of his strength” are speaking of the word of God that can either save or destroy. The Lord sends the rod, “the word of God” to the world through his Church with the hope of saving it but if the world refuses his correction they will perish. His word is strong and like iron cannot be broken.
John tells us in verses 3 and 4 that he saw a sign or a wonder in heaven. He saw a great red dragon with 7 heads, 10 horns and 7 crowns upon his head. 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.
The great red dragon is Satan himself, he is a strange looking thing with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns. This is another word picture to describe the horrible power that Satan has over this present world. To make this clear, God himself is God of the earth that we live on, but Satan is God over the people of this world and the way they think and act, without Christ we can be taken captive by Satan at his will. The number seven is a symbol for being complete, the number ten is a symbol for fullness. Satan rules the world by governing rulers of nations, people who are in authority, political movements and the mindsets that come out of the academic system such as schools, colleges, etc.
As R. C. H. Lenski puts it, Satan wears “symbols of arrogated dominion.” The devil exercises fearsome power; nonetheless, the saints in heaven and on earth know that his power comes to an end at the consummation. They are able to sing joyful praises to Jesus because he rules supreme (vv. Rev_12:10-12).
It goes on to say that Satan with his tail draws a third part of the angels of heaven with him and cast them into the earth. 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.
Before the Garden of Eden Satan and a third of heavens angels were cast out into the earth. They lost their heavenly position because they rebelled against God. Although they were cast into the earth at that time they were still able to go in an out of heaven. They would often appear in heaven when God called an assembly of his people before him. Satan would often accuse people before God the same as he did with Job and the same as with Joshua the high priest in Zechariah. As I have already said, from the time of his encounter with God in the Garden he knew that he would be in trouble if he didn’t do something to stop the Messiah. So in an effort to stop the Messiah he kept a vigil on Israel waiting to destroy him when he was born. This led to the crucifixion of Jesus and would be Satan’s undoing.
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.
The next verse tells us that the woman would flee into the wilderness to a place that God had prepared for her and that they would feed her there for 3 and ½ years. This verse and verse 14 speak of the same happening and I will explain after we go to the next verse to something that must happen first.
*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.
The fifth verse said that Jesus was caught up to God and his throne. When this happened it brought about changes in the spiritual world because God would no longer tolerate Satan and his angels coming in and out of heaven. Because Jesus was now seated at the Father’s right hand Jesus had become Lord and Christ over heaven and earth. Satan would no longer be allowed in his presence. In the next three verses we see the results of this. Satan did not want to obey but his resistance was futile.
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.
Since Jesus ascended into heaven Satan the accuser of the brethren is no longer allowed in heaven. It says in verse 9 that he was cast out into the earth. In Chapter 20 we read where Satan is bound with a great chain and cast into the bottomless pit. It is the same event. This world is a bottomless pit and Satan rules over it. In this world people can never get enough of anything and it leads to all kinds of sin. It is a bottomless pit that can never supply enough of what mankind lusts after.
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.
Just a few days after Jesus ascended and was seated with the Father he sent the Holy Spirit into the world. This is why Satan was removed from heaven. The intercessory work of Jesus had just begun and Jesus would no longer listen to Satan’s accusing voice when it comes to God’s people. Up until this point in history he had accused us before God day and night. But now that Christ has bruised his head and cast him out of heaven the scriptures say: “Romans 8: 33: Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.”
It says in verse 10 “now is come salvation, and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ.” This all speaks of Pentecost: the door of salvation was opened to all beginning in Jerusalem, Samaria and to all parts of the world. The kingdom of God on earth had been inaugurated and it came with the Holy Ghost and the preaching of the cross, which was the power of God unto salvation. Satan has and is still overcome by the blood of Jesus and our confession of Christ in our lives. The Church in John’s day was and had been under severe persecution. A person early on had to make up his mind that even at the cost of death they would not deny him. Thousands upon thousands made this their testimony: “and they loved not their lives unto the death”.
12: Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. 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.
Verse 12 begins with an encouragement for those that were about to give their lives. He does this by telling those that were already living in heaven to rejoice because they were safe, out of harms way. When a Christian dies his soul or spirit goes to God and his body returns to dust. When a person is born again he is in the first resurrection. This is spoken of in Revelation 20 when he said that he saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, that had suffered for the word of God and who had not surrendered to their persecutors. They were in heaven because they were in the first resurrection; they had been born again. The first death is to be spiritually dead to God and the second death is the wrath of God. If you are born again the second death has no power over you. Those of us on this earth are often persecuted and even killed for being a believer, but we are still winners if we are born again.
Satan knows that he has but a short time and so he does everything that he can do to try to win, but he is nothing but a loser. In verse 13 we see that after Satan was cast down from heaven he began his persecution on the Church. Even though the early believers were often mocked or criticized it wasn’t until after Jesus was crucified that a horrible persecution from the Jews came about. This persecution would eventually become so great that many Christians would be forced to leave Jerusalem. Those that stayed often paid a terrible price. The great persecutors of the early Church were the Jews and it lasted around forty years.
13: And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
*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.
* The 3 ½ years, 1260 days or the 42 months:
The Reformers for the most part believed that this 3 ½ years or 1260 days was symbolic and it only makes sense, simply because the angel had signified the book in word pictures. The woman that represents the Church is protected from the presence of the serpent for 3 ½ years or “for a time, times, and a half time”. This period of time was a literal 3 ½ years for Elijah. God took care of him in the wilderness for this period of time while at the same time God was giving Israel the same period to repent. The 3 ½ years is symbolic of a time period in which God would preserve the Church while at the same time giving the world the same time period to repent and believe in Jesus. This period of time covers from time that Jesus ascended into heaven until he returns at his Second Coming. It is also the same time period given to other things in the book of Revelation.
If Satan had been able to have his way he would have destroyed every Christian on the face of the earth but God would not allow it. God made a way of escape for his Church and they began leaving Israel and gradually went to the nations. At the time of the Roman invasion thousands of Christians escaped to the city of Pella among the Gentiles. John said they escaped to the wilderness, this was their place; the place that God wanted them to be. The wilderness is symbolic as well, it is there that he would feed and protect them just as he did with Elijah. In reality they went to the nations so that they could be protected from their Jewish persecutors and to witness for Jesus. In those places God provided for them just as he does for us today.
Verses 15 and 16 speaks of the intensity of the persecution that came upon the early Church but God will send help to protect her.
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.
The flood that the serpent cast out of his mouth to destroy the woman was the 40 years of Jewish persecution against the Church. Many Reformers believe that the flood is speaking of the many false doctrines that rose against the faith. They believe this because it says the flood came out of the mouth of serpent. I believe that this is true to an extent but much of the persecution that came upon the early Church came because the Jews would stir up the people where ever they went. The scriptures say that the earth helped the woman and swallowed up the flood? The question then becomes how did the earth do this, especially concerning false doctrine?
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.
The Jewish persecution of the Church came to an abrupt halt when the Roman army destroyed the city of Jerusalem, killing millions of Jews making thousands of them their slaves. Israel was driven out of their nation and remained that way until 1948. The earth helped the woman, the flood of persecution was swallowed up. God used the Roman army to bring about his judgement on this nation for persecuting the Church. The Jewish persecution of the Church would not continue for a very long time. If the flood was speaking of the false doctrines of the day in which many came from the Jews trying to pervert Christianity then the destruction of Israel also closed the door on much of this.
17: And 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.
The remnant of her seed is talking about the Christian Church that survived the persecution that was and is the true Church, both Jew and Gentile that believe in Jesus and keep his commandments. Satan didn’t give up over this but continued his persecution with some interesting characters, John describes one of these as a Beast that comes up out of the Sea in chapter 13. It is notable that he will be allowed the same time period as the Church: “power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.”
Verse 17 is the last verse in chapter 12 with the woman going off into history being pursued by the dragon. The signified characters that follow in chapter 13, the beast, the false prophet and the mark of the beast are all products that Satan uses to try and destroy the Church. These characters at that time were symbols of a great government power such as the beast controlled by Satan. The false prophet was the same type of thing that supports this type of government and allegiance to this government is the mark of the beast. After the Jewish persecution of the Church, Satan began using the Roman government to destroy the Church. Nero and those Caesars after him decided that they should be worshipped as a god. In all of the nations that were under their authority you had to show your loyalty to Caesar by worshipping him as a god. Rome had many gods and Caesar was simply worshipped right along with the rest, but Christianity recognized only one God and refused to worship any other. When many Christians refused to acknowledge Caesar as God they would eventually be captured and killed or made slaves. But yet the Church survived. Jesus kept it alive. That is what chapter 12 is all about. We see how Satan failed in his attempt to kill Jesus when he was born, how he failed to destroy Jesus in his life. We see Satan’s failure in going after the woman through persecution from the Jewish religion. Now the Church begins her life through the ages and down through history many of the things that she has experienced will be repeated many times in different parts of the world. Satan will always pursue but Christ will always win.
Today we have religious persecution from ISIS and other similar groups whose religion demands that Christians lose their heads or are made slaves. But God’s Church is still here and will be here until Jesus comes back. We have governments rising up like the beast declaring from a government standpoint that there is no God. The Jewish led Bolsheviks during the Communist take over of Russia killed millions of Christians and for almost a hundred years it seemed that Russia would always be atheistic but it didn’t last. Today in Russia churches are restored and at the close of the 20th century Russia declared itself to the world to be a Christian nation. Today the Church is not only being promoted but has complete government approval. This is the kind of victory Christ brings to his people. Our government in America is becoming a beast against God's’ Church but that won’t last because Jesus will do something to protect his Church. At the end of chapter 14 this particular vision concludes with Christ coming back and bringing judgment upon the evil nations of this world. Christ and his Church will always win.
When Jesus ascended into heaven he received all power and authority and is reigning as King in the midst of his enemies. We can always look to him for help in time of trouble. We see a spiritual picture of this in Daniel:
Daniel 7: 13: I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
14: And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
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A Reformation View of Revelation Twelve
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