Revelation 12 depicts a “great sign” in heaven. Through symbolic imagery it tells of Israel’s end time testing, and of Satan’s war against her. Though difficult to interpret its literal fulfillment, this text clues us into: (1) how Satan attacks the saints, and (2) how we may triumph against all of his schemes.
I. A Sign in Heaven
This text seems to point to past events, namely the birth of Christ and the fall of Satan, to give context to what is now happening in the tribulation.
V. 1 “A woman.” The woman is the nation of Israel, often depicted of the Bride of God (Gen. 37:9-10).
V. 2: “She was pregnant.” Israel “gave birth” to the Messiah (v. 5). Although this ought to reminds us of Mary and Jesus, it is a visible representation of how through the people of Israel, the Ruler and Savior would be born (Rom. 9:5; John 4:22).
V. 3: “An enormous red dragon.” The dragon is satan (v. 9), the very serpent that deceived Eve in the beginning. “Seven heads… ten horns… seven crowns.” These are earthly leaders that do his bidding (Rev. 17:9-11).
V. 4a: “A third of the stars.” The stars are angels that have fallen along with Satan. Satan’s original fall occurred in the far distant past (Isa. 14:12-15; Ez. 28:11-19).
V. 4b: The red dragon wished to destroy Jesus “the moment he was born.” From Pharaoh and Moses to Herod and Jesus, the devil has always sought to destroy God’s appointed deliverers from the womb.
V. 5a: “Will rule the nations.” As we have discussed extensively, Jesus is the rightful Heir and Ruler of all creation.
V. 5b: “Her child was snatched up to God.” This is the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:9-11).
V. 6: “1,260 days.” This brings us back to the tribulation (cf. Rev.11:3) and to the testing of the remnant of Israel (the “144,000”) during that time (Rev. 7:4; 14:1).
II. A War in Heaven
VV. 7-9: “Then war broke out in heaven.” This war results in Satan and his angels being cast to the earth. This has yet to take place, for Satan and other evil spirits currently dwell in heavenly realms (cf. Eph. 6:10-12). Thus, when this takes place, they will be confined to the earthly realm, unable to transcend to the spiritual dimension.
III. A Decree in Heaven
V. 10: “The kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah.” One of God’s first acts in establishing His Kingdom on earth is to hurl Satan down to it (cf. Rev. 11:15; Mat. 6:9-10).
“The accuser of our brothers and sisters.” Note one of Satan’s key characteristics and forms of attack: accusation. He defies the atoning work of Christ by bringing our sins before God continually, daring Him to damn us (cf. Job 1:9-11; Heb. 2:14-15). This does not avail with God to make Him condemn the Christian, but can affect us directly, discouraging us from drawing near to God (1 John 3:19-20).
V. 11: “They triumphed over him.” “They” are “our brothers and sisters” (v. 10, Rev. 1:9). The reader of Revelation can relate for this dragon is one they presently must triumph over (Luke 10:18-19). Here are three keys to triumph:
- “By the blood of the Lamb.” By the blood of Jesus they have been purchased (Rev. 5:9), washed clean (Rev. 7:14), their sins atoned for (Rom. 3:25). Again, Satan’s accusations are only effective to the extent we validate them. Remembering the price that was paid to secure our redemption and forgiveness makes us b
- “The word of their testimony.” This is both defensive and offensive in spiritual battle. Defensively, it grounds our faith in our own undeniable experience of God’s mercy, grace and power in our lives. Offensively, when we give testimony (Greek, martyeria) to Christ, we serve to set other captives free and depopulate hell (Acts 1:8).
- “They did not love their lives.” Perspective of gain and loss in light of eternity (Rev. 2:10 20:4; Mat. 10:28-31, 16:24-25).
V. 12: “But woe to the earth and sea.” God’s judgment on earth seems to involve allowing an angry devil to run amok on the earth. We will see how this materializes in the coming chapters as Satan attempts to organize an earthly kingdom to usurp God’s rule.
III. Hell on Earth
VV. 13-16: “He pursued the woman.” Symbolic language is employed to depict how God will again deliver and sustain Israel from the dragon, just as He had done in the Exodus (Ex. 19:4).
V. 17: “Those who keep God’s commands and hold fast to their testimony about Jesus.” The dragon, unable to harm the remnant of Israel, sets his sights on “her children,” that is, those who will believe on account of their witness (Rev. 20:4).