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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Revelation Chapter 12. The Dragon, the woman and the manchild.


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.

These oracles have as their central theme the warfare between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan.

Another way of seeing this section is as:
The Seven Actors of the Last Days:
(1) 12:1,2 The Woman.
(2) 12:3,4 The Dragon.
(3) 12:5 The Manchild.
(4) 12:6-17 The Saints in the Last Days.
(5) 13:1-10 The Antichrist.
(6) 13:11-18 The False Prophet.
(7) 14:1-5 The 144,000.


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.

REV 12:2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

REV 12:3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.

REV 12:4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

REV 12:5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

REV 12:6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

(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.

(a) Greece - the Dragon Python attempts to kill the new born son of Zeus and is foiled by the escape of the mother to the Island of Dulos. There the child (Apollo) is born and he subsequently returns to kill the dragon.
(b) Egypt - Set, the Red Dragon, pursues Isis, the Mother of the Dying and Rising God. Her son (Herus) ultimately kills the Dragon.

Other myths with the same story are Tiamut (Babylon), Zend (Persia), Leviathan/ Rahab/ Behemoth (variations native to Palestine and folk religion found there). These two were variants of the common "Solar" myth of Creation wherein the Dragon of Darkness tries to kill the sun God only to be killed by him as the new day dawns. This daily event is a re-enactment of the victory of light over darkness at creation.

In all the myths the child was considered to be the Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15, a prophecy which is found in all of the ancient myths.

The symbolism is clearly drawn from Astrology. The only changes made by John to the traditional Astrological signs are because of his desire to abbreviate and to identify as being the same several pictures found in ancient astrology.

Hence John is here giving us a key to understanding the true meaning of Astrology. Seiss and Bullinger in their books on Biblical Astrology make this identification of the message in the stars with the Biblical revelation of Christ. If we do not admit that they are the same then we reject a major source of traditional symbolism which the Bible draws on and we lose the key to understanding what John is saying.

The Picture we see is exactly depicted in the stars - the Dragon is seen there menacing Coma, the Woman holding the Manchild. However other pictures in the stars are also drawn on to fill out the description.

The Stars then show these pictures:
a) The Woman - but in the stars there are four women. John draws from all of them in his description to show us that they are the same, only seen at different times in her existence. They are Virgo, Coma, Cassiopeia and Andromeda. The primary source for this vision is Coma, the woman with the manchild.

(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.

(iii) Andromeda, the Woman Bound - This depicts the woman under persecution. She is in chains, the chains bind her to her enemy the Serpent (Hydra). It depicts her existence between the birth of her child and her final deliverance. It is the Church in Conflict.

(iv) Cassiopeia, the Woman Enthroned - This depicts the Woman as a Bride prepared perfectly for her wedding. She is seated on a throne arranging her hair. It is the Church in Victory.

In the stars as we follow the ecliptic these four pictures appear in this order, denoting a progressive revelation of God's plan for the woman. However here in REVELATION we see these four pictures combined into one, thus the Divine Seal is put on the ancient signs and the traditional identification of the woman as given in the myths.

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.

(i) The Seed held in Virgo's hand.
(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.

(c) "The rest of Her offspring" (12:17).
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.

Hence we see She is Zion, the Ideal city, or people, of God. It is from Zion the Redeemer comes, yet she herself is redeemed by him.

(d) The Dragon (12:3).
Is Draco the dragon, and Hydra the Serpent.

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 Zion, seen at first in her pre-Christ state, a virgin, who gives birth to her son, Christ, the Manchild. Satan, the Dragon, attempts to Kill Christ - firstly at his birth and then on the Cross, but in the final analysis Christ ascends to God's throne at his resurrection.

After this Satan attempts to destroy the woman who brought forth the manchild. Here we see persecution and martyrdom inflicted on the people of God. An attempt is made, and continues to be made, to destroy Zion, the Church of God on Earth, but in some mysterious way God protects the institution of the Church. It is never destroyed, it is protected, as if in the wilderness. We must remember that symbolically "the wilderness" (in REVELATION) is the opposite of being committed to and in the "City", the Satanic world system opposed to God.

However Satan, now thwarted in his attempt to destroy the Church, turns his attack on her "offspring". The Church itself cannot be destroyed, but throughout the ages her sons and daughters have suffered persecution and martyrdom.

This moving from “Zion” to the “sons/daughters of Zion” is typically OT. Where we see “Zion” we are to see God’s people as a single unit, but where we see “the sons/daughters of Zion” we are to see God’s people as individuals. Hence the Dragon cannot touch the Woman, Zion, the bride of Christ to destroy her – the Church will never be fully overcome by Satan – but he can persecute her “offspring” – individual Christians can be persecuted and be martyrs.

This conflict continues on until the woman and her seed eventually overcome the Dragon and his power is destroyed.

Clearly then some of this chapter is history, some is repeated in the life of every generation of believers, and some is still future. This drawing together of past history, present reality and future hope is typical of Apocalyptic literature, where the writer attempts to show the connections between different events in the history of the world. Here John is showing us the connection between the death of Christ and his resurrection, the persecution of the saints in this age and the eventual defeat of the Dragon by the people of God. They are not isolated events but are three parts of one great drama.

Scriptural Support for this Interpretation:

(a) Zion in Labour Pains.
This is a metaphor often used to mean persecution and trouble. Out of this struggle the Messiah is brought forth.

Micah 5:2,3
John 16:16-22
Isaiah 26:17-19; 54:1-17; 49:14-21; 66:7-9 (Important).

(b) The Dragon's attack on the Manchild.

Matthew 2:13-19.
However the crucifixion is what is really in view here.

(c) Zion is our mother.

Galatians 4:26,27.

But we are Zion. Hebrews 12:22ff.

(d) Christ is not only born of Zion, but is her husband.

Revelation 21,22.
Ephesians 5:22ff.

It is interesting to note that in REVELATION 12 we see a spiritual reality. Zion is seen as being complete even though many of her children were not yet born. There is no problem with this as we are seeing things from the viewpoint of God's design, not from human history. The woman is also mother of the Church, implying she is greater than the Church. Zion, in fact, is not just the Church, but is comprise of the faithful from all ages. This is also seen in the stars where Cassiopeia, the Bride, is considered to be the mother of Andromeda, the people of God in chains and conflict, even though Andromeda appears in the stars before Cassiopeia!

(e) The seeing of the woman as being the same as her offspring is a common OT usage of symbolism where:
= Jerusalem = the people of God seen as a single unit.
But the sons/daughters/children of Zion are the same people seen as individuals. The phrase "the rest of her offspring" is just a variant on "Children of..." and means simply "this that belong to the city of Zion, have citizenship there and have it's character and name (c/f 3:12 - we are to be given the name of the city).

(2) Exegesis of the Text.

12:1 "a great portent appeared in heaven"
(i) "great" Greek = "Mega". Occurs 5x in the chapter.
(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.

"A woman"
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).
(ii) The Church of Christ, not including faithful of other ages of Jews. This interpretation is difficult as the bringing forth of Christ in Birth is always connected with the Faithful of Israel. Also the Woman "mothers" the Church indicating that in some way she is greater than the Church.
(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 Israel.
* Galatians 4:21-31 - Zion is the mother of the Church, not Israel.
* Paul's whole argument in Romans and Galatians is that not all who were born into Israel through natural birth were considered to be part of the true Israel. It is faith which made one a member of the people of God.
(iv) Zion = the Redeemed and Faithful of All ages. This interpretation seems best and has no real objections to it.


(1) Revelation 12:1,2 The Woman C/f Revelation 17:1ff The Harlot. In the symmetry of REVELATION we are clearly intended to see these two women as being contrasting - the true people of God verses the worshipers of the Beast. The Harlot is the avowed enemy of the Woman. Yet Babylon is something that spans the whole of human history, hence the woman in REVELATION 12 should be seen to do so also, therefore she is Zion.

(2) In Genesis 1 the woman is brought forth on the 6th day, the final act of creation. So too the Bride of Christ is completed on the 6th day of human history, where 1 day = 1000 years. She is the final act of creation in God's plan.

"clothed with the sun"
There is no darkness in her.
1 John 1:5; Ephesians 5:22-33.

The glory of God. “The sun” is a picture of the glory of the Father, “the moon” of Christ, “the Stars” here speak of the Seven Spirits of God (see ch1). What we see here then is Zion, Clothed in God's glory, standing on the rock of the atonement of Christ, crowned with the Seal of the Spirit of God.

Objection: If the woman stands on Christ's atonement then she cannot include the faithful of the OT period.

Answer: Hebrews makes it clear that Christ's atonement dealt with sin for ALL time.

Objection: The Book of Revelation is prophecy, so the birth of the child must be still future.

Answer: Not all of REVELATION is future, e.g., the seven heads of the Beast in Ch 17, five had already fallen before REVELATION was written, the sixth has now also. The revelation given to John in Ch 17 shows the life of the beast described there from beginning to end, marking out only the highlights of its existence. Hence there is no reason why we cannot see Ch 12 in the same sort of light, i.e. describing the spiritual battle of Zion and the Dragon from beginning to end, marking out only the highlights.

"Crown" - Stephanos, a victor’s crown.

"of 12 stars on her head"
The stars symbolise the kingdom of God. Her we see her with kingship adorning her head. The kingdom is, in scripture, always associated with the work of the Spirit, and the earlier association of stars with the Spirit is important here. The woman here has learnt what it means for "The Lord to be the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17). She has learnt to hear his voice and respond in perfect obedience.

Hence we see here a representation of the Trinity:
The Sun = the Father.
The Moon = Christ.
The Stars = the Spirit.

12:2 "labour"
An OT symbol for the persecution of God's people. See John 16.

12:3 "Dragon" = Satan (12:9).

For the meaning of the seven heads refer to notes on Ch 17.

Dragon Greek = Draco, which is a name for one of the pictures of the serpent found in Astrology. In the stars, however, it is Hydra and not Draco who is threatening Virgo. Hence we have here John identifying two of the pictures of the Constellations to show that they are the same.

In Greek mythology Hydra has seven heads, each one rises in its turn.

The seven headed beast is found in all of the mythologies of the ancient world and is to be identified with Leviathan (Job 38) the Creation monster.

In the Ugarit texts he is called "the accursed one of seven heads".

An early Christian Hymnbook "The Odes of Solomon" no 22 quotes Christ speaking of his victory over death saying that God is the one who "by my hands overthrew the dragon with seven heads".

"seven diadems" – king’s crowns.
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.

"red" - the traditional colour of Tiamat (Babylon) and Typhon (Egypt).
Hence the conflict we are to see is nothing but a continuation of the conflict between good and evil that has existed since the Fall.

12:4 "tail" - speaks of Deception through the use of spiritual gifts of prophecy (Isaiah 9:15).
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".

"1/3 of the stars."
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.

12:4 "brought forth" = 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.

Psalm 2:7-9.
Hence we see here Zion bringing forth her king, who was killed by Satan, but God raised him from the dead. The resurrection is proof of his kingship, and the ascension is his accession to the throne.

Hence the reference to "birth" has a double meaning. It refers to his birth through a virgin, but also to his death, resurrection and ascension which were his birth into kingship.

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.

C/f Isaiah 66:7-9 "Before she was in labour she brought forth a son"
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".

Psalm 2:6,7.

"who is to rule ...with a rod of iron"
Quotes Psalms 2:9 - the exegesis of Psalm 2 begun in ch 11 continues.

Revelation 19:15, this refers to Christ.
However, as we share in his rule, it is extended to us (2:27).

The connection of these events so closely to the period of 1260 days (v6) is no barrier to understanding the manchild to be Christ. In prophecy large time periods are glossed over without comment . This is because the prophets see things like looking at a mountain range from afar. They only see the peaks and not the valleys of time in between. What John is seeing here is the history of the spiritual war between God and Satan. John is attempting to tell us in symbols that the suffering of the people of God in the last days is directly related to the events of Calvary. The tribulation of 1260 days is related to the Cross.


The concept of a man-child goes back to Genesis ch 4 where Eve gives birth to her first child, Cain. Cain is called a "manchild" there. There is a real sense in which Christ is to be seen here as the true manchild of history. The first manchild, Cain, began an evil family line which introduced all sorts of perversions and devil practices into man's society. It was ultimately the cause of the Flood. When we consider that the eldest son was considered to be the chief heir of the family we see that Cain was to inherit the earth from Adam. The parallel we are to see here is that Christ is the true manchild, the first born of creation, the true heir of the earth. He makes up what was deficient in Cain and brings God's plans to perfection.

12:6. "fled into the wilderness"
Hebrews 13:13
. The place of spiritual separation from the world, or Egypt, or Babylon. Exodus typology is back in view here.
The wilderness is anywhere outside the unholy city.

"nourished" - by manna? = Christ (John 6). The provision of God for the woman is Christ.

"for 1260 days" = 3½ years, or 42 months of 30 days according to the Hebrew calendar.


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.

REV 12:8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.

REV 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

REV 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

REV 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

REV 12:12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

This is an expansion of 8:10,11 9:1.

The supernatural conflict between God and Satan gets more intense as we progress into the next stage of the battle. Paul says that even now we are in warfare (Ephesians 6:11-20) with spiritual forces in the heavenlies which influence our lives now on earth. What we see now is their final overthrow. This section is like looking at the decisive battle of the war. The war is not yet quite over, but the remaining battles are only a mopping up operation.

12:7 "war in heaven".
Not God's heaven, the third heavens, but the mid heavens, or second heavens where Satan has his throne.

Isaiah 14:12-20 - Satan is seen here leading an invasion of heaven. We have to ask - "Is this historical, or is it future?" There is nothing in the text of Isaiah to suggest it is already past. It may occur in the last days. v15ff are definitely still future.

"Michael and his angels"
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.

Daniel 12:1.

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 Israel (Matthew 25:15-22) then moves to the Church (Revelation 12:17 = "the rest of her seed").

It seems as if his first attack on Israel forces them to return to Israel, but a spiritual renewal occurs and they come under God's protection somehow. In anger Satan then turns on the Church and a massive martyrdom occurs. Yet the Church is protected by God and is not destroyed.

12:8 "They were defeated".
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.

This victory is accomplished by angels on the one hand, but they could not do it if the Church had not already effected it. The angels are only "ministering servants for those who have obtained salvation" (Hebrews 1:14) and hence are unable to bring to pass that which is not already true in the life of the Church. Hence we are told (12:11) that the saints "overcame him".

12:9 The Dragon is Identified.
"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.

"the Devil" = the accuser c/f Job 1,2; Zechariah 3:1ff.
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.

"the deceiver of the whole earth"
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.

"thrown down to earth"
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.

"and his angels with him".
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.

12:10 "a loud voice" - unidentified, but he calls himself "a fellow servant", thus he is an angel.

"Now the salvation...have come" c/f 11:15.
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.

"accuses them day and night".
The Devil works the night shift.

NOTE:- Satan's defeat means several things:
(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.

12:11 "they" = the saints.

"have conquered him" i.e. Satan.
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.

Psalm 110:1,2 "Out of Zion"

(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.

How will this purity of the Church come about?
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.

12:12 "heaven and all you who dwell in it"
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.

REV 12:14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.

REV 12:15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.

REV 12:16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

REV 12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring- those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

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.

However the main emphasis of the prophecy is not "What happens to the Church", or "What happens to Israel", rather the emphasis is on "the seed of the woman", i.e. the individual Christians or Jews alive at the time.

12:13 "the woman" = the covenant people of God, the faithful of Israel and the Church, Zion.
Exodus typology is strong here again. The attack of Satan against her "seed" to kill them parallels the attack on the children of Israel in Egypt at the birth of Moses, or indeed of Christ.
This happens against both Israel and the Church in the last days.

The sense of this prophecy is that the attack begins first on Israel, and then moves to the Church.

Outline of Events:

(1) Persecution of the Church.

12:13 After Satan's expulsion from the heavenlies he attacks the Woman = the Spiritual people of God, Zion.

12:14 Zion, however, is protected by God. She goes "underground".

This suggests to me that initially there is an attack on the Church as an organisation in the world. The result is that the Church abandons its worldliness.

"to the wilderness" - In Revelation to be "in the city" is to be in some way compromised with the world. The "wilderness" is the place of separation from the world and its temptations.

So initially God does a work of purification on his Church world-wide, and this is effected through a short, sharp burst of persecution.

This move of God to purify his Church first, before attempting to reach Israel or the world, is consistent with other passages of Scripture:

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.

In all probability, as a result of this persecution, the Church abandons its public face and goes "underground". The practice of Christianity as we know it, based on Church buildings, will disappear.

The Church disappears from the "world" and now lives in the "wilderness". There is a divine protection on the Church for the following period of 3 1/2 years. Nothing Satan can do can destroy the Church, or undermine its witness. However, as we shall see,

(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.

(2) Persecution of Israel.

The visible disappearance of the Church means that Satan can no longer attack it as an institution so he turns his attention to the other visible witness to God's power in the world, Israel.

Satan, in this, is consistent - as he cannot see spiritual realities he can only attack the "visibles".

A world wide persecution of Jews forces them to flee back to Palestine. Some OT prophecies indicate that they may be sent back to Egypt first, and from there Exodus again through the wilderness to Palestine.

Jeremiah 26; Deuteronomy 26; 28:63; Ezekiel 29:6-15; 38:8; 37:1,2; Isaiah 19:1-5; Zechariah 14:3; Hosea 8:13; Haggai 2:22.

During this time Israel experiences great deliverances from Satan by the hand of God, and this provokes a spiritual rebirth in them as a people.

12:14 This hiding of the Church and protection on Israel lasts for 3½ years –along with a great revival in Israel.

12:15 There is a vast attack of nations upon Israel.

"waters" = Peoples (see Revelation17:15), particularly in the form of nations rebellious to God. The channelling of them into a "river" suggests that they are united (by treaty?) in their desire to destroy Israel. The channelling, like a river, suggests common intent and purposes.

Exodus typology:- The children of Israel were thrown into the water to be drowned.

12:16 However other nations come to the aid of Israel for purposes of their own.

"the earth" = possibly countries under stable government.

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:

(i) Jerusalem is under the control of the Antichrist for this period. Other prophecies state this. At first this is a domination by agreement with Israel but it later turns into one of subjection.

(ii) The essential feature of the Antichrist is that he is committed to the "earth". He denies spiritual realities.

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 Americas are destroyed at the beginning of the last 3½ years. It is possible that America comes to Israel's aid and is destroyed in the process. The other forces involved in attacking Israel could possibly be the Arab / Islamic nations. The destruction of Islam as a force in the world seems to be necessary and it could easily happen at this time.

However Europe could sit on the sidelines and after the event attain a superiority. The rise of Antichrist would be effected by the need for strong leadership to reconstruct the world system after the collapse of America and the Arab World. Presumably in the first 3½ years of the Tribulation Antichrist is a respected political leader in Europe and gains rulership as a result of his exceptional wisdom in dealing with the aftermath of the destruction of the Americas and the Western way of life and economy.

However the conclusion is that Israel survives the onslaught, but comes under the rule of Antichrist for the remaining period of the prophecy. Initially he is not manifest as the Antichrist, but his true character soon becomes known.

(3) Martyrdom of the Saints.

12:17 Failing in his attack on Israel the Dragon realises that he cannot destroy the "Institutions" of Zion, i.e. Israel and the Church, as entities. Hence there is a deliberate change of tack. His emphasis now becomes the martyrdom of Individuals in the Church.

"the rest of her offspring".
This phrase has many inferences.
(i) Recall the common OT usage of the phrases:
(a) Zion, Jerusalem, Israel - on the one hand - which indicate the nation as a whole unit, and
(b) The sons/daughters/offspring of Zion, etc. - on the other - depicting the people as individuals.

In this prophecy until now we have looked at two units - Zion, the Church and Israel. The sudden introduction of the word "offspring" now clearly implies that we are to change our viewpoint and see them no longer as single units but as collections of individuals. The emphasis has changed from the corporate body to the member.

(ii) It refers back to the "manchild". It sets him against all the other children of the Woman, that is Christians, and possibly faithful Jews.

Clearly this is an attack on individual Christians, and possibly Jews, with many being martyred.


bibleprophecy_ndbpsa said...

The Major Participants of End-Time Bible Prophecy

• God the Father

• His Son

Col.1:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

• The Holy Spirit

Jn.16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into ALL truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

• The Jews

• The Gentiles

• The church of God

1 Cor.10:32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

• Satan

Re.12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, call the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

• The Beast of Revelation 13:1

Re.13:1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

The beast of Revelation 13:1 is also seen in Daniel chapter 7 as the fourth beast.

Dan.7:19 Then I would know the truth (Jn.16:13) of the FOURTH BEAST, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which DEVOURED, BRAKE IN PIECES (Dan.7:23), and STAMPED THE RESIDUE with his feet (Dan.7:7);

• The Beast of Revelation 13:11

Re.13:11 And I beheld ANOTHER beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

The Beast of Revelation 13:11 is also seen in Daniel chapter 7 as the “another” little horn.

Dan.7:8 I considered the (ten) horns (kings - Dan.7:24), and, behold, there came up among them ANOTHER little horn (king), before whom there were three of the first horns (kings) PLUCKED UP BY THE ROOTS (Dan.7:24): and, behold, in this (little) horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things (Dan.7:20).

Pat (ndbpsa ©) Bible Prophecy on the Web

Alex said...

What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.