Revelation 12 is a fascinating chapter. We have already seen views of end time events in the throne room of God in heaven (the “third heaven”, where God dwells). We have also seen views on earth and in the atmosphere (the “first heaven”). Now we are privileged to see a view of end time events as they appear in the universe/space (the “second heaven”).
I believe Revelation 12 uniquely gives an overview of the entire Tribulation (Time of Jacob’s Trouble) Week from all 3 vantage points – the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd heavens.
Revelation 12 gives a sweeping overview of God’s redemption plan, and outlines that Israel is about to enter her “birth pains”. Let’s go through it verse by verse (all taken from ESV version):
Verse 1 – And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
There is no reason to believe anything other than that this is a literal alignment that appears in the heavens (constellations – second heaven – space). God placed the sun, moon, and the stars deliberately, and He controls their movements (Genesis 1:14). The only woman constellation is Virgo. While “Virgo” is the corrupted astrological name for the constellation, in the Mazzaroth (God’s redemption plan in the heavens) Virgo is generally considered to represent Israel. This vision of John’s is reminiscent of Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11. This sign, it its completion, seems to appear in the heavens in one time only in human history – September 23, 2017.
Verse 2 – She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
The heavens obviously can’t be pregnant, but the theme of labor pains and birth is used to describe the “discomfort” of the end of the age in multiple places in scripture. (Isaiah 26; Matthew 24). It’s interesting that she is already in birth pains and the agony of giving birth here, before the dragon is described. It’s possible the crying out in verse 2 illustrates the early fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, where Israel is restored nationally and physically before she is restored spiritually. This is described in Isaiah 26 as Israel laboring by herself (without God) to attempt to obtain deliverance. However, God is not about to bring to the point of birth without delivery. She is about to enter TRUE birth pains, and final deliverance.
Verse 3 – And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
This is “another sign”, separate and distinct from the “great sign” in verse 1-2. The dragon constellations include Draco, Serpens, and Hydra. Will any or all of these be involved in the sign of the red dragon? Some people suspect a mysterious planet or planetary system could be involved. As of the time of this post, no one is truly sure how the dragon sign will play out, although it will likely become clear as the time of its fulfillment is imminent (for more discussion on the dragon sign, please see this post on the dragon, serpent, and Planet X). The seven-headed, ten-horned dragon, however the sign plays out, is clearly a reference to satan. (We are explicitly told this in Rev 12:9 and Rev 20:2) Elsewhere, we see a seven-headed, ten-horned Beast (Daniel & Revelation), which is also Satan, or the human kings he controls. The heads are wearing diadems (like crowns); elsewhere we are told they are kings.
Verse 4 – His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.
The Bible refers to angels as “stars of heaven” a few times, such as in Job 38:7. It seems that this third of the stars of heaven is quite possibly referring to the portion of the angelic host that joined Satan/Lucifer in his initial rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-17). When they fell, they were cast to the earth, where they are now the powers, principalities, and rulers of this present world (Eph 6:12). There may be a connection between this event and Seal 6, in which “stars fall from the sky”. I would suggest that the fallen angels will somehow be involved in the fulfillment of this sign. Note that the dragon isn’t actually devouring the woman or her child, but is anticipating devouring her child.
Verse 5 – She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
Okay, so here is where it gets interesting. Using an interlinear translation, we see the woman give birth to a male huion arsen (Strong’s 5207 and 730). This male child is to shepherd the nations with a rod of iron. The woman is identified as Israel (the corporate entity), who brings forth Jesus (the male child – huion arsen). A child, teknon (Strong’s 5043), is then caught up to God and to His throne. Now here’s a question for you – is the child who is birthed the same child that is caught up?
What about Jesus’ ascension? Was Jesus caught up and snatched out of imminent danger from the dragon? Acts 1:9, Jesus is lifted up (eperthe – Strong’s 1869) until He is hidden from view. We see this in 19 other instances and it means exalts or lifts itself, lifting up voice or eyes, lifting up, turning gaze. Jesus, at His ascension, went calmly and was in no distress from a dragon trying to devour Him. The child that is birthed here will be “caught up”.
The child in Rev 12:5 is herpasthe (Strong’s 726), not eperthe . Where else do we see Strong’s Greek 726? 1 Thessalonians 4:17 – Those who are alive and remain will be caught up together…; 2 Cor. 12:2, 4 Paul is caught up to the third heaven; Acts 23:10 – take him away from them by force; Acts 8:39 – Philip is snatched by the Spirit of the Lord. There are 14 instances of this word and it means plucked, seized, snatched suddenly and forcefully. There is quite a difference between being lifted or raised and being snatched or seized, isn’t there?
So what does this mean? Well, let’s take a look at the child who is snatched. Is it the same child as the male child – huion arsen? Well, no, in fact, it isn’t. This child is teknon (Strong’s 5043). This is a commonly used word to mean children, child, descendant (gender neutral). Who could this be? If the woman represents the corporate entity of Israel, the child (neutral gender) represents the corporate entity of the church – Jew and Gentile made one in Christ. The church that is snatched up, suddenly and forcefully. For an excellent discussion of the child in Revelation 12:5, please see – Who is the Male Child in Revelation 12?
Jesus, the male child, is birthed first, as the Head. Next we see the gender neutral corporate child born, the Body. Just as in typical childbirth, the Head precedes the Body. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that often in the New Testament Christ is referred to as the Head of the Church and we are the Body of Christ! (It’s also possible that Revelation 12:5 is *only* talking about the church as the child)
From Isaiah 66 we know that “before she was in labor she gave birth”. This is entirely consistent with Jesus telling us that when we BEGIN to see all these things (the beginning of birth pains sign He describes on the Mount of Olives), that our redemption draws near. As Israel enters her birth pains, the time of Jacob’s Trouble, the body of Christ will be delivered. The nation that is born in one day is the body of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). The timeline for this is Seal 6.
The dragon doesn’t succeed in devouring either child – Jesus nor His church. Nothing can stop Christ from accomplishing the redemption of His people. Hallelujah!
For further support for this model, note in Rev 2:26-27, the overcomers in Thyatira – but applicable to all believers – who continue in Jesus’ work until the end, will also receive authority over the nations and rule them with an iron rod, just as Jesus received authority from His Father.
So we see the woman (Israel), the Church (gender neutral child/descendant), but then what about post-rapture tribulation gentile believers? Are they represented in Revelation 12? Yes. In verse 17, the woman has other offspring (spermatos – Strong’s 4690), who we are told are those who keep God’s commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus. Since the woman (believing Israel) is securely hiding in the wilderness at this point, these offspring must be gentile believers.
Is the Great Sign of 12:1-2 connected to the birth of the male child, Jesus? I would suggest that it is not. If you are interested in the star signs surrounding Jesus’ birth, I suggest you view This Documentary on the Star of Bethlehem. Is the Great Sign connected to the snatching of the child in verse 5? There are people studying those very things, detailed at Unsealed.
Verse 6 – and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Here we skip forward to view the fate of the woman, at some point after her child has been snatched. Admittedly, the placement of verse 6 can cause some consternation.
John Abent in his book “Signs in the Heavens” suggests that the 144,000 sealed Jews flee to the wilderness right away after the rapture/seal 6 events (between Seal 6 & Seal 7, or perhaps during the pause after Seal 7 before Trumpet 1). He sees the 2 witnesses as instructing them there in the wilderness, teaching them as Jesus taught His disciples for 3.5 years. If this is correct, it would give a huge key to the timeline in Revelation – defining two consecutive 1260 day time periods. We already know the 70th week of Daniel is “one week” of 360-day years (i.e. 7 years of 360 days each). This is clarified by a few mentions of 1260 day, 42 month, and “time, times, and half a time” time periods in both Daniel and Revelation. The difficulty is in connecting the two halves together, and this may be the key. If this view is correct, the woman (144,000 elect Jews) flees to the wilderness at the start of the 70th week of Daniel, which begins at the signing/strengthening of a 7 year covenant. After 1260 days, the abomination of desolation would occur, and the watching faithful Jews would join these in the wilderness for the last 1260 days (see v14) of “Great Tribulation” described in Matthew 24. [Totally unrelated, but I have heard speculated that God will again provide manna for them – wouldn’t that be so wonderful!]
Now, because we are viewing a grand panorama, I also believe this verse could just be a marker, positively identifying the woman as faithful Jews through a reference to the 1260 days. It is telling us who she is and what will become of her. Thus, the 1260 days might refer to a later time point, after the abomination of desolation event, discussed later in chapter 12. If this view is correct, then Revelation 12:1-6 give an overview of the entire 7-year Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and the subsequent verses are a detailed discussion of how verses 1-6 play out (detail pop-out). As we have previously discussed, this overview followed by detail pop-out is very common throughout the book of Revelation.
Verse 7 – Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,
“Now” brings us to a different part of the vision, referencing back to the dragon of verse 3-4. This seems to lend credence to the view that verses 1-6 are an overview, and now we are about to be filled in with the details.
Is the war in heaven when the child is snatched? Is it when the woman flees? We are not told what causes the battle, but the most likely scenario in my opinion would be the rapture of the Church. John MacArthur makes the interesting suggestion that the prince of the power of the air and his demon hosts may try to hinder the passage of the raptured believers as they pass through their realm (Rev 12:3-4), which would trigger the battle with Michael and the holy angels (Rev 12:7-8). I believe this has very strong merit, as the dragon is poised to devour the child as it is being born. Regardless, this must be some battle to watch!
Verse 8 – but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
There is no longer any place for Satan and his demons in heaven. “Place” here doesn’t so much refer to space or room, but to purpose. Satan, after his initial fall, retained access to God’s throne in order to accuse believers before Him (remember the book of Job?). There’s no longer any purpose/place for him to do so, because there’s momentarily no longer any believers left to accuse on earth.
Verse 9 – And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
This is not the time of Satan’s original fall. His abode is currently on earth, where he rules as the prince. We are told here that he has retained access to God and heaven. He now loses that access. Why? We are told in the next verse. It also quite possibly provides the details of verses 3-4.
I see possible connection between this casting down of Satan and his horde in verse nine with Seal 6, where the “stars” fall from heaven to the earth (Rev 6:13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind). Obviously they can’t be literal stars; however, they could be asteroids/meteors. In v4 we are already introduced to the fallen angels as being “stars” and we know Satan and the demons are cast down to the earth here so it’s not a stretch to see the “stars” as falling to earth. The strong wind could be associated with the Holy Spirit ascending back to heaven with us – the removal of the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2 (the reverse of the Holy Spirit descending as a strong wind from heaven on Pentecost, detailed in the book of Acts).
We are told in 2 Thessalonians 2 that Satan has a great deception, and that God will send a powerful delusion for the earth-dwellers to believe Satan’s lies. I believe this deception/delusion will be supernatural and involve the fallen “stars” in some form or another.
Verse 10 – And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Salvation has come through the power of Christ – the power of resurrection and eternal life – our blessed hope, the rapture! Refer to the Great Multitude in Revelation 7 who are singing about Salvation – I believe this is another view of that same great event!
Verse 11 – And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Those who persisted in faith until the end (death for those who died, the moment of the rapture for those yet living) are the overcomers! The word of our testimony is that we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord! The blood of the Lamb is our righteousness! This also quite possibly infers the inclusion of the Seal 5 marytrs in this group.
Verse 12 – Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
We see again the extremes of rejoicing in heaven contrasted with the woes on earth. This is a theme throughout the book of Revelation. The Restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2 (the Holy Spirit indwelling in the body of Christ) has now been removed, and Satan is about to unleash his deception upon the remainder of humanity. It’s the time of Satan’s great wrath yes, but Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. God will use Satan for His purposes, to fulfill the time of Jacob’s Trouble and the Day of the Lord.
Verse 13 – And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
Satan will start by pursuing Israel (note the word is pursuing, not devouring or attacking). [This may include the Isaiah 17/Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39 wars if these have not yet occurred, but I tend to think they have probably already occurred pre- or coincident with the rapture, leaving a power vacuum on earth]. I believe this pursuing will certainly include the rise to power of the antichrist and the confirming of the covenant that starts the 70th week of Daniel. Instead of viewing the pursuing as open and hostile aggression, though, I tend to view it as manipulative and cunning.
Imagine that Satan tries to woo Israel as her long-awaited messiah. I believe he will deceptively infiltrate her – quite probably by raising up his antichrist to appear to be the “Jewish Messiah”. This rise to political and spiritual power will take place during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week. [Further discussion on this: Discussion of the Antichrist, Discussion of Mystery Babylon, and Why Israel Rejected Jesus as Messiah]
Verse 14 – But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
When the abomination of desolation is placed in the Third Temple, and that antichrist claims to be “god”, observing Jews will recognize the warning of Jesus from Matthew 24 and flee to the wilderness as directed. I believe this is a detailed view of verse 6. Time, Times, and Half a Time is confirmed thus as 1260 days. The wings of the eagle and flight here refer to the speed with which she flees. There is also connection to being sheltered under the wings of the Lord (for further discussion please see: The Woman Flees to a Place Prepared). This is when Michael stands up (Daniel 12:1), and defends them in the wilderness for the duration of the 1260 days of Beast rule.
Verse 15 – The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.
Truly, not sure what this is going to look like. Literal water? Possibly? However, I think it is more likely to be armed troops or demonic entities that chase elect Israel as she flees. I base this interpretation from a similar description during the 6th Bowl judgment, where impure spirits also flow from the mouths of the dragon, beast, and false prophet – “Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs” (Revelation 16:13-14). NOTE that the timing of verse 15 is at the midpoint of the 7 year period, versus the timing of Bowl 6 which is near the very end of the 7 year period. I only want to point out the similar descriptions.
Verse 16 – But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.
Whatever this “earth opening its mouth” is, God saves the fleeing Jews from the serpent/dragon/satan in this way. It’s possible the earth literally “opens its mouth”, like sinkholes opening up or an earthquake.
Verse 17 – Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
Here we see more offspring of the woman, as discussed above. They aren’t the Church (the child who was snatched off to heaven in verse 5), nor are they the Woman (who flees to the wilderness). These are the gentile tribulation believers – the “tribulation saints”. While the woman is being protected in the wilderness, we find out in Revelation chapter 13 that these saints will be given into Satan’s hand. Many/most will become the “tribulation martyrs”.
And thus concludes Revelation chapter 12, with the beast about to rise out of the sea. Chapter 13 will give an overview of the time of “greatest tribulation”, the antichrist’s 1260 days of rule during the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!