Revelation 12 - The Woman, the Child,
and the Dragon
A. The woman.
1. (1) The woman is
described in celestial images.
Now a great sign
appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under
her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
Now a great sign appeared: This is
the first of seven signs that John relates, and is described as a
great sign (mega semeion).
In Revelation chapters 12, 13,
and 14 the main figures of the Great Tribulation are described, and this
great sign introduces
the first of the seven:
woman, representing Israel
dragon, representing Satan
man-child, referring to Jesus
angel Michael, head of the angelic host
offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the
beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the
A woman clothed with the sun: Because
John plainly says this is a sign, we
don’t expect this woman to appear literally on the earth. God will use
this sign to communicate something to John and to us. Women often
represent religious systems in Revelation.
Jezebel is associated with a religious system of false
teaching (Revelation 2:20)
The Great Harlot is associated with false religion
The Bride is associated with the church (Revelation
woman clothed with the sun in this
passage has been associated with many different religious ideas. Roman
Catholics claim this woman is Mary, pictured as the “Queen of Heaven.”
Mary Baker Eddy said she was this woman.
i. It is common in
Roman Catholic art to represent Mary as standing on a crescent moon with
twelve stars around her head.
d. Scripturally, this
woman clothed with the sun should be
identified with Israel, according to Joseph’s dream (Genesis 37:9-11).
In that dream, the sun represents Jacob, the moon represents Joseph’s
mother Rachel, and the eleven stars are the sons of Israel which bow
down to Joseph. In this sign with twelve
stars, Joseph is now “among” the other tribes of Israel.
i. In other Old
Testament passages, Israel (or Zion or Jerusalem) is often represented
as a woman (Isaiah 54:1-6, Jeremiah 3:20, Ezekiel 16:8-14, and Hosea
2. (2) The woman
Then being with
child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
Being with child: Later in the
chapter, it is clear that this child born of Israel is Jesus (She
bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron,
She cried out in labor and in pain to give
birth: The pain described
refers to the travail of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth (under Roman
occupation and oppression).
B. The dragon.
1. (3) A fearful,
powerful dragon appears.
And another sign
appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads
and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
Another sign appeared in heaven:
Again, we are reminded that this is a sign.
The creature here is not literally a great,
fiery red dragon, but the dragon represents his nature and
i. His description
“symbolically suggests his fierce power and murderous nature . . . a
picture of the fullness of evil in all its hideous strength.” (Johnson)
Seven diadems on his heads: This
dragon has great power (seven heads and ten
horns) and claims royal authority (seven
diadems). The crowns represent his presumptive claims of royal
authority against the true King. He wants to be considered a king.
i. “From the
similar description given in 13:1 and the parallel references in Daniel
7:7-8, 2, it is clear that the revived Roman Empire is in view . . . The
seven heads and ten horns refer to the original ten kingdoms of which
three were subdued by the little horn of Daniel 7:8, who is to be
identified with the world ruler of the great tribulation who reigns over
the revived Roman Empire.” (Walvoord)
2. (4) The dragon
looks to the earth.
His tail drew a
third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon
stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child
as soon as it was born.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven:
Many believe this describes one-third of the angelic host in league with
Satan (his angels of Revelation 12:9). This army of angelic beings in
league with Satan makes up the world of demonic spirits.
i. “God never made an
evil being; but He made angels, principalities, and powers capacitated
for mighty joys and distinctions in His glorious domain, yet with free
will, implied in the very creation of moral beings, which they could
exercise for their everlasting weal or woe. Many have remained
steadfast, to wit, ‘Michael and his angels.’ But some abode not in the
truth, but revolted against the rule of Heaven, and became unchanging
enemies of God and His Kingdom.” (Seiss)
To devour her Child as soon as it was born:
The attempt to devour her Child was
initially fulfilled by Herod’s attempts to kill Jesus as a child
(Matthew 2:16-18). It was also fulfilled throughout Jesus’ life as
Satan attacked Him (John 8:58 and Mark 4:35-41).
C. The child.
1. (5) Jesus’
ministry is described by its earthly beginning and end.
She bore a male
Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was
caught up to God and His throne.
A male Child who was to rule all nations
with a rod of iron: Clearly, this refers to Jesus Christ, the
Messiah. He rules the world with a rod of
iron (Psalm 2 and Revelation 19:15).
She bore a male Child refers to
Jesus’ birth. Rule all nations with a rod
of iron refers to the triumphant return of Jesus. By stating the
“bookends” of Jesus’ earthly work, John alludes to all that stands in
i. “After a
conflict with the Prince of this world, who came and tried Him, but
found nothing in Him, the Son of the woman was taken up to heaven and
sat on the right hand of God. Words can hardly be plainer than these.”
male Child is obviously Jesus. This
means that the woman of Revelation 12:1 cannot be the church, because
Jesus “gives birth” to the church, not the other way around. The woman
must therefore either be Mary or Israel, the only two “women” who could
have “given birth” to Jesus. The rest of Revelation 12 will demonstrate
that this woman is Israel, not Mary.
2. (6) The woman in
Then the woman
fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that
they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Then the woman fled into the wilderness:
Persecuted by the dragon, the woman is protected by God in a
prepared place for
one thousand two hundred and sixty days
i. This helps us to
understand with certainty that the woman is Israel and not Mary. How
could Mary possibly flee into the wilderness in this way?
One thousand two hundred and sixty days:
This reference to a three and one-half year period connects these events
with the final seven years of the Daniel 9 prophecy. Since Revelation
12:5 describes the ascension of Jesus, and Revelation 12:6 describes
yet-to-occur events in the 70th week of Daniel, between these
two verses lies hundreds of years (our current period). This obvious
“near-far” break in time is typical of prophecy. Daniel’s seventy week
prophecy has such a break (Daniel 9:24-27).
Into the wilderness, where she has a place
prepared by God: Some believe this
place in the wilderness is the
rock city of Petra, south of the Dead Sea. Reportedly, Christian
businessmen have stocked the place with food and evangelistic tracts
written in Hebrew.
Prepared in the wilderness:
Prepared uses the same ancient Greek
word Jesus used in I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2-3). This
demonstrates that God’s careful planning works on earth as well as in
D. Conflict in heaven.
1. (7-8) War between
Michael and the dragon.
And war broke out
in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon
and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found
for them in heaven any longer.
War broke out in heaven: At the
mid-point of the great tribulation, God will turn the tide against Satan
- first in heaven, then on earth. A battle will take place that will
deny Satan access to heaven.
Michael and his angels: Some
individuals and groups (such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s
Witnesses) insist on saying that Michael
is actually Jesus. This is wrong on every count.
i. Some say Michael must be
Jesus, because he has his angels.
But if Satan - a fallen angelic being - has
his angels (Revelation 12:7), which can’t Michael - an unfallen
angelic being - have his angels?
ii. Some say Michael
must be Jesus, because his name means One like God. But if this were a
title of Jesus, it could argue against His deity, not for it - because
it would say that Jesus is like God, but not God. “There is also an
unquestionable Godlikeness in all holy beings, which must be very
exalted in those preeminent among the ministers of the throne.” (Seiss)
iii. Some say Michael
must be Jesus, because he is called the archangel (Jude 9), which means
leader or prince among the angels, and they say that only Jesus is the
leader of the angels. But we know from Daniel 10:13, 10:20 and 10:21
that Michael is one angelic prince among others. Also, Paul refers to
an archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 in a way that presupposes other
iv. Some say that
Michael must be Jesus, because Paul says that at the rapture, the Lord
will call His people with the voice of an archangel (1 Thessalonians
4:16). But Jesus can use an angel to call out for His people without
being that angel, just as much as God can use a trumpet to sound out a
call without being the trumpet.
v. Jude 9 says that
Michael would not rebuke or accuse Satan on His own authority, but only
say “The Lord rebuke you.” This shows that Michael isn’t Jesus, because
Jesus often rebuked Satan and demons in His own authority (Matthew
17:18, Mark 1:25, 9:25, Luke 4:8, 4:35).
vi. “Michael is not
to be identified with Christ, any more than any other of the great
angels in this Book. Such identification here would confuse hopelessly
the actors in this heavenly scene.” (Alford)
Michael and his angels fought with the
dragon; and the dragon and his
angels fought: This is a dramatic scene of battle between
“good” angels and “bad” angels.
i. Who fights in this
battle? This is truly a battle between equals. The
dragon represents Satan (Revelation
12:9), and Satan is not the counterpart of God - God has no
counterpart. If anyone, Satan is the counterpart of Michael, who seems
to be the chief angel opposite this chief of fallen angels.
ii. Why is the battle
fought? In a previous scene of conflict between Michael and Satan (Jude
9), Satan wanted to prevent the resurrection and glorification of Moses,
because he knew God had plans for the resurrected and glorified Moses
(Luke 9:30-31). Here is another occasion where Satan wants to get in
the way of God’s plan for the end-times.
iii. When is this
battle fought? This battle occurs at the mid-point of the seven-year
period, as described by Daniel. At that time Michael shall stand up,
the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and
there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a
nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be
delivered. (Daniel 12:1)
iv. How is this battle
fought? We know this is a real fight; but is it a material or a
spiritual battle? Our battle with Satan and his demons is spiritual,
fought on the battleground of truth and deception, of fear and faith
(Ephesians 6:12). In regard to material attacks against the believer,
Satan and his demons were disarmed at the cross (Colossians 2:15). But
it is possible that among angels, there is a material battle to be
fought in a way we can only imagine. In his classic work Paradise Lost,
Milton imagined this battle:
Michael bid sound
Th’ archangel trumpet:
through the vast of heaven
It sounded, and the
faithful armies run
Hosanna to the Highest:
nor stood at gaze
The adverse legions,
nor less hideous joined
The horrid shock: now
storming fury rose,
And clamour such as
heard in heaven till now
Was never; arms on
armour clashing brayed
Horrible discord, and
the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots
raged; dire was the noise
Of conflict; overhead
the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in
flaming volleys flew,
And flying vaulted
either host with fire:
So under fiery cope
Both battles main, with
rage; all heaven
Resounded, and had
earth been then, all earth
Had to her centre
Nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer:
This shows us that up until this happens (at the mid-point of Daniel’s
70th week), Satan does have access to heaven, where he
accuses God’s people before the throne (Job 1:6-12, Revelation 12:10).
i. It troubles some
to think that Satan has access to heaven, because of the mistaken
teaching that God can allow nothing unholy in His presence. But the
Bible clearly says that that while Satan appears on earth (Luke 4:1-13),
and describes him as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2),
it also says that Satan has access to heaven, where he accuses God’s
people before the throne (Job 1:6-12).
2. (9) Satan and his
angels are cast out of heaven.
So the great
dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan,
who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels
were cast out with him.
So the great dragon was cast out:
This single verse uses many different titles for Satan.
serpent of old, the Devil,
Satan, and he
who deceives the whole world. These
titles describe Satan as vicious, an accuser, an adversary, and a
i. Walvoord on
“The title ‘Devil’ is from the
Greek diabolos, from the verb diaballo, which has the meaning of
‘defaming’ or ‘slandering.’ He is the master accuser of the brethren.”
He was cast to the earth: The Bible
describes four different falls of Satan. Revelation 12:9 describes the
second of these four falls.
From glorified to profane (Ezekiel 28:14-16)
From having access to heaven (Job 1:12, 1 Kings 22:21,
Zechariah 3:1) to restriction to the earth (Revelation 12)
From the earth to bondage in the bottomless pit for
1,000 years (Revelation 20)
From the pit to the lake of fire (Revelation 20)
c. In Luke 10:18, Jesus
said “I saw Satan fall like
lightning from heaven.” This fall Jesus spoke of either refers to the
first fall of Satan (from glorified to profane), or they are a
prophetic look ahead to the second fall at the mid-point of the seven
year tribulation period.
His angels were cast out with him:
This indicates that demonic spirits are indeed fallen angels, those who
joined with Satan in His rebellion against God. These are “his
angels are also the same as the third
of the stars of heaven described in Revelation 12:4. Since Satan only
drew a third of the stars of heaven, it means that two-thirds of the
angels remained faithful to God. It’s comforting to know that faithful
angels outnumber fallen angels two to one.
3. (10-12) A joyful
declaration in heaven.
Then I heard a
loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the
kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the
accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night,
has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and
by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the
death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to
the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to
you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
a. Whoever is behind
this loud voice, it is some
representative of redeemed humanity - not an angel or God - because the
voice speaks of the accuser of our brethren.
The accuser of our brethren, who accused
them before our God day and night, has been cast down: Satan’s
work of accusing only ends here, when he is cast out from his access to
heaven. Today, we have (and need) an intercessor and advocate (Hebrews
7:25, and 1 John 2:1).
And they overcame him by the blood of the
Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their
lives to the death: This tells us three keys to the saint’s
victory over Satan.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb:
The blood overcomes Satan’s
accusations. Those accusations mean nothing against us because Jesus
has already paid the penalty our sins deserved. We may be even worse
than Satan’s accusations, but we are still are made righteous by the
work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, and Hebrews
i. Although, it is
important to say that we should not regard the blood of Jesus in a
superstitious manner. It is not a magical potion, nor is it the literal
blood of Jesus, literally applied that saves or cleanses us. If that
were so, then His Roman executioners, splattered with His blood, would
have been automatically saved, and the actual number of molecules of
Jesus’ literal blood would limit the number of people who could be
saved. The blood speaks to us of the
real, physical death of Jesus Christ in our place, on our behalf, before
God. That literal death in our place, and the literal judgment He bore
on our behalf, is what saves us.
By the blood emphasizes the death of
Jesus. He did not only suffer, He died. Of
the Lamb emphasizes the substitutionary work of His death,
because the Passover Lamb died as a
substitute for others.
The blood of Jesus heals our
troubled conscience, because we know that by His death our sin is atoned
for (Hebrews 9:14). But to only use the blood of Jesus in that
way is selfish. We should be like “these
saints used the doctrine of atonement not as a pillow to rest their
weariness, but as a weapon to subdue their sin.” (Spurgeon)
iv. How does
the blood of the Lamb conquer Satan
in the life of the believer? How does the death of Jesus on the cross
as our substitute bring us victory?
v. It works first
because His victory is our victory. “First,
you are to regard Satan this day as being already literally and truly
overcome through the death of the Lord Jesus. Satan is already a
vanquished enemy. By faith grasp your Lord’s victory as your own, since
he triumphed in your nature and on your behalf . . . Come, my soul, thou
hast conquered Satan by thy Lord’s victory. Wilt thou not be brave
enough to fight a vanquished foe, and trample down the enemy whom thy
Lord has already thrust down? Thou needest not be afraid, but say,
‘Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
vi. It works because
the work of Jesus on the
cross for us is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love (Romans 5:8),
and a constant remembrance of the blood of
the Lamb assures us that every fear Satan whispers into our mind
is a lie.
vii. It works because
the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute reveals the true
nature of sin, and this makes us want to avoid sin. “Satan
makes sin seem pleasurable, but the cross reveals its bitterness. If
Jesus died because of sin, men begin to see that sin must be a murderous
viii. It works
because the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute purchases us
as God’s personal property, and this makes us want to live unto God.
“If anything can make a man holy it is a firm faith in the atoning
sacrifice. When a man knows that Jesus died for him, he feels that he
is not his own, but bought with a price, and therefore he must live unto
him that died for him and rose again.” (Spurgeon)
ix. Therefore, we use
the blood of the Lamb in spiritual warfare - not as a Christian
“abracadabra,” as if chanting “The blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus”
could keep Satan away like garlic is said to keep away vampires.
Rather, our understanding, our apprehension, our focus - may I say our
obsession with the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute wins
x. “The precious
blood of Jesus is not meant for us merely to admire and exhibit. We
must not be content to talk about it, and extol it, and do nothing with
it; but we are to use it in the great crusade against unholiness and
unrighteousness, till it is said of us, ‘They overcame him by the blood
of the Lamb.’ This precious blood is to be used for overcoming, and
consequently for holy warfare. We dishonor it if we do not use it to
that end . . . The dog of hell knows the dread name which makes him lie
down: we must confront him with the authority, and specially with the
atonement of the Lamb of God.” (Spurgeon)
They overcame him . . . by the word of their
testimony: The word of their
testimony overcomes Satan’s deception. Knowing and remembering
the work of God in their life protects them against Satan’s deceptions.
As faithful witnesses, they have a testimony to bear - and because they
know what they have seen and heard and experienced from God, they cannot
be deceived by Satan’s lies telling them it isn’t true (as the testimony
of the man born blind in John 9:25).
They overcame him . . . they did not love
their lives to the death: Loving not
their lives overcomes Satan’s violence. If they do not cling to
their own earthly lives, then there really is no threat Satan can bring
against them. If they believe to live is Christ, and to die is gain
(Philippians 1:21), then how can Satan’s violence against them be
i. The ancient Greek
word for love here is agape, which
speaks of a self-sacrificing, decision-based love. It is up to each one
of us to choose: will we love our
lives to the death? Will our
physical lives be the most precious thing to us, or will we find our
life by losing it for Jesus? (Mark 8:35)
Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who
dwell in them! Heaven rejoices at the eviction of Satan. But
heaven’s gain is the earth’s loss: Woe to
the inhabitants of the earth and sea!
He knows that he has a short time:
Satan’s power is real and terrifying, but not because he is triumphant,
but because he knows he is beaten and has a
short time left. He is like a wounded, cornered animal that
i. Why doesn’t he
just give up? Don’t forget that Satan is utterly depraved, and probably
“insane” - he may have deceived even himself into thinking that he has a
chance. A better question is “Why don’t we give up?” Our rebellion
against God makes even less sense than Satan’s rebellion does.
E. Conflict on the earth.
1. (13-16) Satan
attacks the woman, and God protects her.
the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the
woman who gave birth to the male Child.
But the woman was given two wings
of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place,
where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the
presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth
like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away
by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its
mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his
He persecuted the woman who gave birth to
the male Child:
Some teach that the
woman is a symbol representing all the people of God, including faithful
Israel and the church. They use this to advance the idea that the
church is here during the tribulation period. But if the woman
represents all the people of God (the church and faithful Israel), then
who are the rest of her offspring described in Revelation 12:17? It is
better to see her as Israel in general or Messianic Jews in particular.
i. Why does Satan
attack the Jewish people? This is a question for all history, not only
for the Great Tribulation. The reason us because Israel, from the time
of Abraham, has had a critical role in God’s plan of redemption. First,
it was in bringing forth the Redeemer. Then, it was in the fulfillment
of His plan, because Jesus promised that the Jewish people would exist
and welcome Him when He returns in glory to this world (Matthew 23:39).
If Satan succeeds in destroying the Jewish people, then God’s eternal
plan is thwarted.
ii. “The persecution
of Israel is part of the satanic program to thwart and hinder the work
of God . . . Israel is hated by Satan not because of any of its own
characteristics but because she is the chosen of God and essential to
the overall purpose of God for time and eternity.” (Walvoord)
But the woman was given two wings of a great
eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place:
Eagle’s Wings are an emblem from the Exodus deliverance (Exodus 19:4),
another way of connecting these people with Israel.
i. Some have wondered
if the reference to the two wings of a great
eagle do not in fact describe a great military transport plane
used to evacuate people in an emergency situation.
Where she is nourished for a time and times
and half a time: This is another reference to a three and
one-half year period, indicating that these events - this dramatic
persecution of Israel - takes place during the 70th week of
So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth
like a flood after the woman: The fury poured out against Israel
after the abomination of desolation (marking the half-way point of 70th
week of Daniel) was spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-22, and spoken
of in distinctly Jewish terms (housetop . . . pray that your flight may
not be in winter or on the Sabbath). This passage in Revelation
describes the fury that Jesus told them to flee.
The earth opened its mouth and swallowed up
the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth: This
passage also describes God’s ultimate protection of Israel from the fury
of Satan and his antichrist in the great tribulation.
i. As it says in
Isaiah 59:19, When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the
Lord will lift up a
standard against him.
2. (17) The wrath of
the dragon is focused against God’s people.
And the dragon
was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her
offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of
The dragon was enraged with the woman, and
he went to make war with the rest of her offspring: This may
refers to Israel (the woman) and
Gentiles who come to faith in Jesus during the Great Tribulation (the
rest of her offspring). These two groups are particular targets
of Satan and his antichrist’s persecution in the last days.
b. This either begins
or continues the fierce persecution of all those who would not submit to
and worship this great Satanic dictator. The martyrs of this period
were shown in Revelation 6:9-11 and Revelation 7:9-17.
i. “It is precisely
when Satan has lost the battle for the souls of saints in heaven that he
begins the fruitless persecution of their bodies.” (Farrer)
2001 David Guzik -