VISION 4: - Ch 12:1-14:5:- SEVEN ORACLES OF THE LAST DAYS.
Study 1: - Ch 12 The Woman, The Dragon, and the Manchild.
Again John has brought us to the END, and again he backtracks to fill in more detail. These seven oracles are more or less in chronological order of historical events, but again John covers a similar time frame (in earth time) that he has covered before but from a different point of view, filling in details we need to know.
The seven oracles are:
(A) 12:1-6 The Woman, The Dragon and the Manchild.
(B) 12:7-12 The Expulsion of Satan from Heaven.
(C) 12:13-17 The Persecution of the Woman.
(D) 13:1-6 The Antichrist.
(E) 13:7-10 The Execution of God's Witnesses.
(F) 13:11-18 The False Prophet.
(G) 14:1-5 The 144,000 on Mt Zion.
(A) Chapter 12:1-6 THE WOMAN, THE DRAGON AND THE MANCHILD.
REV 12:1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
(1) Background Ideas of Interpretation.
This story has no Hebrew parallel that is known, but throughout the ancient world there was a widespread myth concerning the Divine Child who overcomes evil by dying.
Other myths with the same story are Tiamut (
(i) Virgo - The Pregnant Virgin, The main picture of the Constellation Virgo. The virgin who the ancients knew was to bring forth a son, who would redeem the earth. He is called the "Promised Seed", and she is seen holding an ear of Wheat in her hand symbolising this "Seed". In her other hand she holds a branch, signifying that he would also be known as “the Branch”.
(ii) Coma, the Woman and Her Manchild Son - this is a Decan of the constellation Virgo. It is the Woman, but now seen holding in her hand a "Manchild". The unique thing about this child is that in the ancient pictures he is always depicted as new born, yet standing up on his mother's hand. This combination of maturity and babyhood suggests a pre-existence. The manchild in the stars was known to be the same as the Branch, the Promised Seed and the names of the chief stars in the manchild demonstrate this.
The mystery of the woman was twofold – and the ancients never really fathomed it out:
(i) She was a virgin – but she had a male son, a manchild. This is a medical impossibility, not that virgins cannot have children – there are several documented instances of this happening – but the offspring they have are always female. There can only be a male offspring if there is a father.
(ii) This is the real mystery. The virgin was clearly the mother of the child – but she was also the wife of the manchild in his maturity. This was really perplexing.
(b) The Manchild.
Throughout the ancient world he was always identified as the seed of the woman. I.e. he was born of a virgin. However in the stars he appears in other guises.
(ii) The Manchild of Coma.
(iii) The Deliverer of Andromeda.
(iv) The Husband of Cassiopeia.
Hence in the myths the child has an implied pre-existence, is born of a virgin, yet the child is born BEFORE the marriage, and the husband is the child. Unless we see this as referring to Christ then it has no meaning.
In the myths are identified as:
(i) Pisces, the Fishes.
(ii) Gemini, the Twins.
(iii) Ursa Major and Minor, the two Sheepfolds (today called the greater and lesser bears).
(iv) Argo, the Ship.
But more importantly they are identified WITH THE WOMAN HERSELF, I.E. THE WOMAN IS HER OFFSPRING.
So we see the mythology of the Ancient world based on the stellar constellations all ties in with the picture we see here in REVELATION and the rest of the Bible.
The interpretation we arrive at then, using this traditional symbolism, is as follows:
The Woman is
This is a metaphor often used to mean persecution and trouble. Out of this struggle the Messiah is brought forth.
Isaiah 26:17-19; 54:1-17; 49:14-21; 66:7-9 (Important).
However the crucifixion is what is really in view here.
It is interesting to note that in REVELATION 12 we see a spiritual reality.
But the sons/daughters/children of
(ii) "Portent" = sign with a spiritual meaning.
(iii) "in heaven" i.e. in the stars. The sign was always there, but John is suddenly seeing the meaning of the signs in the stars.
What we are seeing here is a spiritual reality, but she represents an earthly reality.
Variously interpreted in History as being:
(i) Mary (Catholic Interpretation).
(iii) Israel (Dispensational view) - because of the "12 stars" thus identifying her with the vision of Joseph (Genesis 37:9) and the idea in Romans 9-11 that we are grafted into Israel. This interpretation is difficult as:
* Revelation 1:20 the stars are Churches in Revelation, not tribes of
* Galatians 4:21-31 -
* Paul's whole argument in Romans and Galatians is that not all who were born into
There is no darkness in her.
1 John 1:5; Ephesians 5:22-33.
The stars symbolise the
Hence we see here a representation of the Trinity:
The Sun = the Father.
The Moon = Christ.
The Stars = the Spirit.
An OT symbol for the persecution of God's people. See John 16.
Satan rules over the kingdoms of men by legal right - he is king of earth, having bought that title from Adam. This claim the Bible never questions.
Satan led a group of the angels in rebellion with him against God, and he did it by means of talking to them. We can only imagine his line - he still uses it today, promising greatness for following him, and slandering God.
Ezekiel 28:16 "in the abundance of your trade" Literally = "by your slanders".
Satan took 1/3 of the angels with him when he fell. Stars are a traditional symbol of Angels.
In the constellations Hydra, the Serpent, extends 1/3 of the way around the circle of the ecliptic, hence filling 1/3 of the heavens, covering 1/3 of the stars.
“Birth” was in the ancient world and also in the OT a metaphor. It was used to mean the accession of a king to his throne, i.e. coronation.
Hence we see here
The unusual emphasis placed on the sex here is important. This indicates that the person referred to here is MALE. It indicates that the person here is not a symbol of the whole people of God, or part of it, as the people of God are nearly always seen as being feminine in symbols in the Bible. It would be a total break to see them as masculine.
This is talking about Jesus, and the use of the term "a son" is important. "Son" was one of the titles given to kings in the Ancient Near East when they ascended to their throne. They became a "son of the gods". Hence there was a sense in which their coronation became to them another birthday, they were "born again". When Jesus ascended to his throne through his death and resurrection he became in anew way God's "son".
Quotes Psalms 2:9 - the exegesis of Psalm 2 begun in ch 11 continues.
However, as we share in his rule, it is extended to us (2:27).
Hebrews 13:13. The place of spiritual separation from the world, or
The wilderness is anywhere outside the unholy city.
(B) 12:7-12 WAR IN HEAVEN, THE VICTORY OF THE SAINTS.
REV 12:7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
Not God's heaven, the third heavens, but the mid heavens, or second heavens where Satan has his throne.
This is Michael the archangel, or prince angel who defends God's people. His name means "One who is like God".
Daniel 12:1ff; Jude 9.
In the apocryphal "Apocalypse of Paul" Michael is depicted as the angel of the covenant who guards the relationship between God and his covenant people. In the book of Enoch he is said to be "over the best part of mankind". He clearly has some special relationship with the people of God.
He has angels under him - he is a ruling angel. It appears from v4 that Lucifer (Satan) had 1/3 of the angels under his command, presumably Michael and Gabriel do also.
This war in the heavens begins the great tribulation, the last 3½ years of human history. Satan is cast down to earth with his forces and then turns to attacking God’s people.
He starts with the persecution of
This is not a pre-creation fall of Satan, nor is it his defeat at the cross. It is the final outworking of Christ's victory in history. However the battle has to be won first in the spiritual realms, then it flows on to the natural plane. It appears therefore that this spiritual battle takes place at the start of the Great Tribulation, in fact it is the trigger for it to begin. The ousting of Satan from the heavenlies is completed then, but on the natural plane it takes another 42 months for that to be finalised in human history.
"ancient serpent" - a reference back to Genesis 3:1.
c/f Revelation20:7; 2 Corinthians 11:3.
The title "the ancient serpent" was one given to the astrological serpent, Hydra. He is meant to be a many headed monster who seems to keep coming back to life no matter how often a head is cut off.
Satan is presented as a prosecuting attorney. Often in Jewish writings, Michael is presented as a defence lawyer (Ber 46:9; Yom 20:9).
Satan is the one who brings accusations against us in the heavenly court. He is the prosecutor. But when he is not involved in this he roams the earth looking for evidence he can use against us. If he cannot find it he simply puts temptation in our way and tries to create evidence he can use. As long as we are sinners Satan's presence in heaven must be tolerated. Jesus has taken the judgement destined for us so there is no longer any teeth to Satan's accusations, but we need to live lives that silence the accusations.
Satan's only real weapon is deception. If we believe his accusations about us he gains power over us. However his warfare is only a war of words, he is an old gasbag.
This is now the only place in the universe where Satan has some legal rights. Hence he is going to fight to keep them. Any person who gets in his way is looking for trouble.
In normal circumstances at present the fallen angels do not want to come to earth. The fact is they have to be compelled. At present Satan's work on earth is carried on by Demons, who are a lesser form.
Not on earth yet, but in the heavenlies. The unseen precedes the seen. 11:15 is talking about the visible manifestation of it on earth, it comes 42 months later. But there is a truth here we need to see - the Church has entered into a place of victory over Satan and sin which it lives in for 3 1/2 years before the End. The kingdom must be established by prayer and repentance in our hearts and only then will it come in a visible form.
The Devil works the night shift.
(i) He is now no longer able to accuse God's people at the throne of God. Sin has been finally dealt with.
(ii) He can no longer have any real influence over the course of history. At this time - when it looks as if he is at his greatest power on earth -in reality he is at his weakest. Ghastly things happen on earth, but in reality Satan is a broken and defeated foe.
(iii) The Church must be living in total victory over sin - submission to Christ even to the point of martyrdom. We are then living fully in the meaning of the atonement. For this time period the fullness of the gospel and the full import of it's power is plainly evident to all men in the earth. It is not clouded by the weaknesses and sins of men and women. Yet mankind still refuses to repent. The true nature of rebellious sin is thereby revealed.
The Church did it, not Christ. Christ is seated in heavenly places and is going to stay there until all “his enemies are made a stool for his feet” (Hebrews 1:13). This is our task.
(i) "by the blood of the Lamb" i.e. through partaking fully of the atonement of Christ.
(ii) "The word of their testimony" - i.e. confession what God has done for them.
(iii) "they loved not their lives unto death" - total submission to Christ even if it means martyrdom. The overcomers are martyrs in spirit if not in fact.
c/f Daniel 11:32-35.
The martyrdom of a few leaders of the Church will be the catalyst for the purification of the many. Persecution purifies the Church. It would seem then, in the time sequence we are looking at, that at some stage just prior to the expulsion of Satan from heaven there is a persecution of the Church and several martyrs. This brings the cleansing of the Church in preparation for the onslaught of Satan.
c/f Revelation13:6 21:10.
The place of "dwelling" is where one's spiritual citizenship and commitments are. It does not necessarily denote the physical location of the person. Hence the phrase here means "All Christians" even if they are still on earth, sojourning their way through life. Hence we see that the people of God will rejoice - even in the face of persecution.
REV 12:13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
No matter how we take this - literally or spiritually - there are problems. The only way out of the dilemma is to accept that there is here a two-fold fulfillment - literally in the Nation of Israel, and Spiritually in the Church. The two are interwoven, but some comments are exclusive to one or the other.
Exodus typology is strong here again. The attack of Satan against her "seed" to kill them parallels the attack on the children of
This happens against both
12:13 After Satan's expulsion from the heavenlies he attacks the Woman = the Spiritual people of God,
1 Peter 4:17. “Judgement begins at the house of God.”
Romans 2 - the principle enunciated here is that those who are closest to God in relationship are the ones who he judges first. Hence the Church should expect God to move to purify us before he attempts to do anything else. This ties in with the concepts we saw in the previous chapter of the glory of God resting on the Church during this last 3 1/2 years. This suggests a very short and very strong persecution on the Church.
(i) Individual Christians do get martyred, and
(ii) As we noted in Ch 11 it seems as if in the Antichrist's empire, every Christian is martyred before the Second Coming.
The visible disappearance of they institution of the Church makes it hard to persecute the church as an entity so Satan has to change tack.
Which of these groups, if any, are under the Antichrist's control is not stated, but it would seem likely that "the earth" refers to what becomes his forces. This is because:
It is possible that this event is still before the Antichrist is fully manifest. The battle thus described between the "waters" and the "earth" could depict the battle in which the
This phrase has many inferences.
(i) Recall the common OT usage of the phrases:
(b) The sons/daughters/offspring of
Clearly this is an attack on individual Christians, and possibly Jews, with many being martyred.