Revelation Chapter 12


REVELATION 12

Rod: October 15, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 12

In this post, three views will be presented:

[A] The Preterist view, which holds that these events were fulfilled in the first century
[B] The Futurist view, which says that these events are yet to be fulfilled during a future great tribulation

[C] The Historicist view, which sees many of these events as ongoing in Church history, including this present time.

(Notes and updated changes from Adam are in maroon-colored font.)

A. Preterist View:

[Much of the following material is taken from Steve Gregg’s book, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary). Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1997. Pp. 252-276]

Glossary of Terms:

Woman = [1] Old Testament Israel (i.e. the faithful remnant among the Israelites); and [2] later God’s people, the remnant among the nations, after Christ’s death and resurrection
Dragon = Rome, under the influence of Satan

Male Child = Jesus Christ

Verse 1: Preterists agree with Futurists that the woman here refers to the nation of Israel, with the imagery being reminiscent of Joseph’s dream as recorded in Genesis 37:9.

Verse 2: The birth pangs and agony of giving birth symbolize the suffering of the Jewish people during the time of Roman rule before the birth of Christ. Steve Gregg (p. 256) writes that the “travailing of the woman is understood to refer to the centuries of affliction suffered by the faithful Jews as they awaited the coming of their Messiah.”

Verse 3: The dragon had seven heads, ten horns and seven diadems. As we will see, this is very similar to the description of the beast (Revelation 13:1) who received authority from the dragon (Rev. 13:2).

Verse 4: In the first half of verse 4, speaking of the dragon with seven heads and 10 horns, we read:

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”

There is reason to believe that these “stars” are angels. In Revelation 1:20, stars are seen as angels: “…The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…” Here in verse 4, the dragon is able to throw stars to the earth, but in verses 9-12 we see that “the great dragon…that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” would himself be cast out of heaven to the earth, along with his angels.

Some believe that verse 4a is parallel to Jude 6:

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

Others see a parallel to Daniel 8:10, which speaks of “a little horn” (Antiochus Ephiphanes, a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 – 164 BC):

And out of one of [the four horns] came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them…” (Daniel 8:10-11).

Albert Barnes, in his 1834 commentary on Revelation 12, took note of this parallel and wrote the following:

“The main idea here undoubtedly is that of power, and the object of John is to show that the power of the dragon was as if it extended to the stars, and as if it dragged down a third part of them to the earth, or swept them away with its tail, leaving two-thirds unaffected. A power that would sweep them all away would be universal; a power that would sweep away one-third only would represent a dominion of that extent only… Suppose, then, that the dragon here was designed to represent the Roman pagan power; suppose that it referred to that power about to engage in the work of persecution, and at a time when the church was about to be greatly enlarged, and to fill the world; …the conditions here referred to would be fulfilled…

The second half of verse 4 may be a reference to Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by enforcing the death of all Hebrew children below age 2:

“And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”

In Matthew 2:1-18 we read about the wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem asking about the birth of the King of the Jews (verses 1-2). This troubled Herod, who quizzed the chief priests and scribes and found out that, according to Micah 5:2, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (verses 3-6). He instructed the wise men to find the Child, Jesus, and to let him know where he was (verses 7-8). However, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod (verse 12), and Herod, when he discovered that they had deceived him, put to death all children below the age of two throughout Bethlehem and its districts (verses 16-18). Joseph and Mary had already been warned in a dream to take Jesus and flee to Egypt (verses 13-15).

Duncan McKenzie, on the other hand, believes this is a reference to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead:

In Revelation 12 we are being shown this “birthing” of the Messiah. The male Child, after being born, is caught up to God’s throne. Once again what is being shown here is not Jesus being born on earth, but His being “born” when God the Father raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:33).* Thus, as soon as the male Child is delivered He is caught up to God’s throne. Jesus referred to the birthing analogy in talking about His death and resurrection in John 16:20-22. Notice how the dragon (Satan, Rev. 12:9) was expecting to devour the male Child. Satan thought he would be destroying Jesus at the cross. Instead the Child is caught up to the throne of God. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God the Father at the resurrection (Acts 2:31-36). Satan, instead of devouring the Child as he had planned, ends up being cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:9).

*Acts 13:33 reads this way: “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”

Verse 5: The first half of verse 5 refers to the birth of Jesus, either by Mary (specifically) or through the seed of Abraham (generally). The second understanding is to be preferred when we note the progression of what happens to this woman – [1] birthing Jesus and [2] later being protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (verses 6, 13-17). The first part of verse 5 is also parallel to Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 19:15.

“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…”

Psalm 2 is a Messianic prophecy about the coming reign of Jesus, of whom the Father would say, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (verse 7). Jesus would be set on God’s “holy hill of Zion” as King (verse 6), would receive the nations as His inheritance (verse 8), and would “break them with a rod of iron” and “dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (verse 9).

This prophecy is repeated in John’s vision of Christ sitting on a white horse, judging and making war (Revelation 19:11). The armies in heaven would also follow Him riding on white horses (verse 14), and a sharp sword would come out of His mouth, which He would use to “strike the nations” and “rule them with a rod of iron” (verse 15).

The second half of verse 5 refers to Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11).

“And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.”

Acts 1:9 records Jesus being “taken up” and received by a cloud out of the disciples’ sight. Two angels confirm that He was taken “into heaven” (verse 11). Daniel 7:13-14 reveals that He then appeared before the throne of His Father and was given the everlasting kingdom:

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As Daniel reveals, this kingdom was then promised to “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:18). The “time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” when the horn and the fourth beast was making war against them and prevailing “until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints” (verses 21-22; see also Revelation 13:5-7 and Matthew 21:43). The fourth beast and the persecuting horn would prevail over the saints for 3.5 years (“a time and times and half a time”) before his dominion would be taken away and the saints would receive the kingdom (Daniel 7:25-27).

Revelation 12:6-17 goes on to record a Satanic battle leveled against God’s people, which would precede the giving of the kingdom into the hands of the saints (Daniel 7; Revelation 11:15).

Verse 6: God used an attack on Jerusalem for the purpose of judging a rebellious people, says Jay Adams, after God preserved His own, “rescuing them from the fierce attack upon Jerusalem… It may be viewed, therefore, either from the side of Satan’s persecution or God’s wrath.” The woman remains safe in the wilderness during the time of tribulation in Israel for 3½ years (or “42 months”; See Rev. 11:2, 3). This reference to 1,260 days, says David S. Clark, is a term borrowed from Daniel, where it was a period of persecution.”

As I wrote in my term paper on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, the early Church writer Eusebius (263-339 AD) records that when Vespasian began to close in on Jerusalem, believers living there received a sign, “given by revelation to those in Jerusalem who were ‘approved,’ bidding them leave the doomed city and settle in Pella” (F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, 1983, p. 375). Pella was a community on the other side of the Jordan River in modern day Jordan… Pella is indicated by the number “2” on the map.

holyjordanmap[1]

The timing of this event is based on the testimonies of Eusebius and Remigius (437-533 AD), who said that the Christians dwelling in Jerusalem and the surrounding regions fled to Pella “on the approach of the Roman army.” The first Roman army, led by Cestius Gallus, came in November 66 AD, but was defeated by the Jews. In April 70 AD Titus led the Roman army that burned Jerusalem and the temple. 

Verses 7-9: Here we see a scene in heaven of a war between the dragon and the archangel Michael, and also between their two respective armies of angels. Michael and his armies win the war, and the dragon and his angels are cast down to the earth. Steve Gregg writes (p. 262), “The war in heaven (vs. 7) is not chronologically sequential to the flight of the woman into the wilderness.” He quotes David Chilton, whose view is that verses 7-12 explain why the woman needed to flee into the wilderness. Verse 13 returns to the scene of the flight of the woman.

Interestingly, the Roman historian Tacitus records that the following took place in the skies in 66 AD:

“Prodigies had indeed occurred, but to avert them either by victims or by vows is held unlawful by a people which, though prone to superstition, is opposed to all propitiatory rites. Contending hosts were seen meeting in the skies, arms flashed, and suddenly the temple was illumined with fire from the clouds. Of a sudden the doors of the shrine opened and a superhuman voice cried: ‘The gods are departing.’ At the same moment the mighty stir of their going was heard. Few interpreted these omens as fearful. The majority firmly believed that their ancient priestly writings contained the prophecy that this was the very time when the east should grow strong and that men starting from Judea should possess the world” (Tacitus’ Histories 5.8.13-14).

Josephus also wrote similar words:

“Such prodigies had happened, as this nation, which is superstitious enough in its own way, would not agree to expiate by the ceremonies of the Roman religion, nor would they atone the gods by sacrifices and vows, as these used to do on the like occasions. Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the Temple shone with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, and at the same time there was a great motion perceived, as if they were going out of it, which some esteemed to be causes of terror. The greater part had a firm belief that it was contained in the old sacerdotal books, that at this very time the east would prevail, and that some that came out of Judea should obtain the empire of the world” (Wars 6.5.3).

Verses 10-11: We see that Satan is referred to as “the accuser of the brethren.” We can certainly see him playing this role in Old Testament times, and before Jesus went to the cross. We see this in the case of Job (Job 1:6-7), where Satan stands before God accusing Job of being incapable of serving God if he is left unprotected. We see this again in Zechariah 3:1, where Satan is pictured standing before the angel of the Lord to accuse Joshua the high priest. In Luke 22:31 we are told that Satan has put in a specific request to sift Peter as wheat. A not-as-clear reference to this type of activity also appears in Jude 9, where we learn that Satan entered into contention with the archangel Michael over the body of Moses. Steve Gregg also writes,

Because the great dragon was cast out (v. 9) as a consequence of the battle, we can pinpoint the heavenly battle as being at the same time as the accomplishment of the atonement at the death and resurrection of Christ.”  One of several evidences of this is found in Jesus’ statement (recorded by the same author): “now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out”  (John 12:31). Another evidence appears in the announcement that Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ has come (v. 10). This also coincides with the atonement. In addition, other New Testament authors confirm that a victory of this sort over Satan was accomplished by Christ in His death (cf. Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14-15).

The death of Christ did not put Satan entirely out of business, but it ended his career as the accuser of our brethren (v. 10), his principle role in pre-Christian times (cf. Job 1-2; Zechariah 3). The blood of Christ has undermined the grounds of every charge that Satan might bring against the brethren [Romans 8:33-34]. Satan is cast to the earth. He cannot accuse the saints before God any longer, as they overcame his accusations by appeal to the atoning blood of the Lamb (vs. 11). They also take territory from the satanic kingdom by the word of their testimony (that is, preaching the gospel), and by their willingness to die rather than be intimidated by persecution (vs. 11).

Interesting in this light is a statement that Jesus made to His disciples in response to a question from Judas: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on Me…” (John 14:30).

Verse 12: Again quoting Steve Gregg (p. 268), “A woe is pronounced upon the inhabitants of the earth [or land] (v. 12) since the thwarted dragon is now limited in his range of activity and will vent his wrath both upon the saints and upon the apostate Jews. His intention is to stamp out the church before it can extend itself as a globally entity. Since Jesus indicated [Matt. 24:14] that this would be accomplished within a single generation (Matt. 16:28; 24:34), the dragon has only a short time (vs. 12) to stamp out the infant movement. Thus, he goes to war with the remaining seed of the woman.”

Heaven rejoices, along with the citizens of heaven, but a woe is pronounced upon those who dwell on the earth and the sea, i.e. in Israel and in the Gentile nations. [In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

Verses 13-16: This is the time, says David Chilton (Gregg, p. 270), when “in obedience to Christ’s commands (Matt. 24:15-28), the Christians escaped to shelter in the caves of the desert.” Steve Gregg continues, “The wings of a great eagle (v. 14) which carry the woman to safety are an echo of the Exodus, in which God told Israel that He had carried them out of Egypt on eagles’ wings (Exodus 19:14). Like the woman in this vision, Israel had been delivered from the dragon (cf. Psalm 74:13-14; Ezek. 32:2) and sustained by God in the wilderness.” Steve Gregg then quotes from Steve Farrer, who adds,

The woman is treated as the congregation of Israel, saved from Egypt, lifted by the Lord on eagles’ pinions and brought to Sinai. The dragon’s pursuit of her by throwing a waterflood after her is a generalized image for the action of Pharaoh, who [1] commands Israelite children and especially Moses to be washed down the Nile, [2] comes out after escaping Israel with a host, and [3] counts on the Red Sea to shut Israel in.

However, “Satan’s attempt to destroy the Church” in the first century was no more successful than Pharaoh’s attempt to wipe out the Israelites in his day, because “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” (verse 16). David Chilton (Gregg, p. 274) sees this verse as suggesting that, with the woman (God’s faithful remnant) gone from Jerusalem/Judea/Galilee, “the land of Israel swallows up the river of wrath, absorbing the blow in her place.” This principle of God looking out for His people was to be true not only in the first century, but also throughout the centuries even up to our own time, as God sustains His people in the midst of persecutions of all kinds. This is not to say that believers will be spared from suffering and death–and we do know that a tremendous number of believers have been martyred during the last century–but this is to say that God walks with His people through the fiercest of trials and sustains His people even when the enemy strikes his hardest.

Verse 17: “The dragon became furious with the woman” and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.” Instead of admitting defeat, writes Steve Gregg (p. 276), he “continued his attack against not only the woman (the Jewish church), but also the rest of her offspring (v. 17). This must refer to the Gentiles brought into God’s family through the Jewish remnant church.” Concludes Steve Gregg (p. 276), “The next attack upon the saints will be seen as conducted through Satan’s agents, the two beasts who arise in the next chapter.”

B. Futurist View:

[Many of the details expressed in this viewpoint are taken from The John MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2005. Pp. 2015-2017].

Verses 1 and 2: The woman depicted here is one of four mentioned in the book of Revelation. She is thought to be the mother of Jesus by Roman Catholic expositors. However, most of those in Protestant circles don’t believe this – they believe the woman to represent Israel, and the child is Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists also hold this view.

Verse 1: “…clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars” correlates with Genesis 37:9, in which this same description represents the family of Jacob.

Being clothed with the sun likely speaks of glory, dignity and the exalted status of Israel. The moon under her feet possibly describes God’s covenant relationship with Israel, since new moons were associated with worship (1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; 8:13, Ezra 3:5; Ps. 81:3). The twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Verse 3: The red dragon is thought to represent Satan. The seven heads and the ten horns are tied to the first beast of chapter 13. Futurists generally hold the view that the third of the stars swept down by his tail (verse 4) can refer to angelic beings (see Rev 1:20, 9:1 and Job 38:7). This event would likely describe when Satan revolted against heaven and took with him a third of the angels (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). Unable to prevent the virgin birth, Satan tried to kill the child in a general massacre of male children commanded by Herod (Matt 2:13-18, cf. Luke 4:28-29).

Red speaks of bloodshed (John 8:44). Seven heads…ten horns…seven diadems = figurative language depicting Satan’s domination of seven past worldly kingdoms and ten future kingdoms (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24). Satan has and will rule the world until the seventh trumpet blows (11:15) and has inflicted relentless pain on Israel (Daniel 8:24), desiring to kill the woman before she could inflict pain on him.

Verse 5: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…” correlates to a promise made to Christ in Psalm 2 and repeated again in Revelation 19:15.

Verse 6: …and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

God will protect Israel from Satan by hiding her in the wilderness, perhaps in the regions of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, east of Palestine. These countries are spared from the Antichrist’s attack against the Holy Land (Daniel 11:41). The 1,260 days represents the first half of the tribulation, at which point the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel, stops temple worship, and sets up the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27; Matt. 24:15). Many Jews will flee for their lives, but God will preserve them for the final 42 months (3½ years) of the Great Tribulation.

Verses 7-13: A state of war has broken out in heaven and has existed since the fall of Satan (Daniel 10:13, Jude 9). The war will intensify, possibly due to the raptured saints passing through the realm of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Satan will continue to deceive people during the Great Tribulation (cf. 13-14, 20:3, John 8:44). After his release from the bottomless pit at the end of the Millennium, he will briefly resume his deceitful ways (20:8, 10).

Verse 14: “the wings of a great eagle…” This doesn’t refer to actual birds’ wings, but is a graphic depiction of God’s providential protection over Israel. “A time and times and half a time” refer to the 3½ years, or the second half, of the Great Tribulation (cf. 11:2-3; 13:5).

Verse 16: “the earth opened its mouth…” A great army will come against Israel like a flood (v. 15; cf. Jer. 46:8, 47:2), only to be swallowed up by a great earthquake (6:12; 8:5; 11:13; 19; 16:18; Matt 24:7). Satan will then take a position in the midst of the nations of the world, represented by the sand of the sea.

C. Historicist View:

[Source: Sam Storms, War in Heaven, War on Earth: A Study in Revelation 12, November 7, 2006]
[a] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/war-in-heaven-war-on-earth-a-study-in-revelation-12-part-i/
[b] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/war-in-heaven-war-on-earth-a-study-in-revelation-12-part-ii/

  • Sam Storms sees Revelation 12-14 as a parenthesis between the seven trumpet judgments and the seven bowl judgments
  • What is shown in chapter 12 is a picture of the spiritual conflict between the world and the Church
  • The heart of John’s message in this chapter is that “although Satan is the principal source of the persecution of God’s people, he has been decisively defeated by Christ, a victory in which we now share even in the midst of suffering and martyrdom.”

Verse 1: Storms notes various interpretations for the woman throughout history:

[1] Eve
[2] Mary, the mother of Jesus
[3] Mary Baker Eddy and other female cult leaders
[4] “the bride, the heavenly Jerusalem of Rev. 19:7-8; 21:9-10”
[5] exclusively OT Israel (John Walvoord)
[6] exclusively the NT church

  • Here is Sam’s personal viewpoint (which I would agree with): “The most probable interpretation is that the woman symbolizes what we might call the believing messianic community: both OT Israel and NT Church. Later in the chapter we read that when the woman is persecuted she flees into the wilderness and has other children who are described as faithful Christians. In other words, the woman is both the community of faith that produced the Messiah and the community of faith that subsequently follows and obeys him. John clearly envisioned an organic and spiritual continuity between OT Israel and the Church. They are one body of believers.”
  • Storms also notes the following: “In the OT a woman often represents Israel (see Isa. 52:2; 54:1-6; 61:10; 62:1-5,11; 66:7-13). This imagery is also used of the Church in the NT (see 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:31-32; 2 John 1; cf. Rev. 21:2,9; 22:17). The imagery of a woman in the pains of childbirth is also a common one in the Bible, and is used often of Israel in distress. See Isa. 21:3; 26:17-18; 37:3; 51:2-3; 54:1-3; 65:9,23; cf. 66:10 and 22; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6; Micah 4:9). Isa. 66:7 is especially vivid, for there we find the metaphor of Israel bearing a child to indicate the arrival of the period of salvation and restoration.”
  • Regarding the 12 stars: “At minimum, the 12 stars would seem to stand both for the 12 tribes of Israel and the reconstitution and continuation of true Israel in the 12 apostles of the church.”

Verse 2: “The woman is pregnant and suffering birth pangs. On the one hand, this represents the longing expectation and anticipation of the Messiah’s birth on the part of those in the OT community of faith (cf. Luke 2:25-38). But it is also a symbolic reference to the persecution of the covenant community and the messianic line during the period of the OT leading up to Christ’s coming. That persecution is in view is evident from the word translated “in pain” ( basanizo). This term is used in the NT of suffering, punishment, trial, and persecution (Matthew 8:6,29; 14:24; Mark 5:7; 6:48; Luke 8:28; 2 Peter 2:8) and in Revelation of torment inflicted by demons (9:5) or by God (11:10; 14:10; 20:10).”

Verse 3: “The word “dragon” (drakon) is used in the OT (LXX) for the evil sea monster that symbolizes kingdoms that oppose and oppress Israel (especially Egypt and Pharaoh). See especially Pss. 74:13-14; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3 (where Pharaoh is called “the great dragon”); 32:2-3; Hab. 3:8-15. But the “dragon” in Rev. 12 is more than an evil kingdom(s). It also stands for Satan, the one who both represents and energizes all individual and corporate opposition to the kingdom and persecution of the people of God (see 12:9; 20:2, 10).”

Verse 4: “The picture of the dragon sweeping away one-third of the stars of heaven is probably taken from Daniel 8:10. There we read of a ‘little horn’ that ‘grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down.’ The ‘little horn’ is clearly a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes IV, eighth ruler in the Seleucid line, 175-164 b.c. (he died in 163).”

  • Storms does not see this verse then as the angelic hosts which fell from heaven with Lucifer, and who now function as demons. Rather, just as Antiochus Epiphanes was a persecutor of God’s people in the OT, “Rev. 12:4 is probably describing the persecution by Satan of God’s people [in the NT], perhaps even their martyrdom.”
  • Storms further notes that this event is seen to take place “immediately before the birth of Jesus, whereas most believe that the angelic rebellion occurred prior to creation, or at least no later than the events of Genesis 6.”
  • Storms cites another interpretation of this verse: “Some have suggested the ‘falling’ of these ‘stars’ refers to the deceived in Israel who apostatize from the faith and were therefore never fully identified with the 12 stars of v. 1.”

Verse 5: Storms says, “The deliverance in v. 5b is not protection from death but resurrection and ascension. The allusion to the prophecy of Ps. 2:7-9 indicates that whereas this will be consummated at the end of the age (see Rev. 19:15), an inaugurated fulfillment has already begun (see Rev. 2:26-28). Jesus has ‘already’ received the authority spoken of in the Psalm but has ‘not yet’ manifested that authority in its fullness. In the ancient near east, the birthday of a king was not the beginning of his physical existence but the day of his accession to the throne and the taking of regal power. Thus the day on which the “Son” is “begotten” is the resurrection, the day of his glorification and subsequent exaltation to the right hand of the majesty on high (see Acts 13:33).”

Verse 6: “Whereas the woman in v. 1 was primarily the covenant community of believers prior to the incarnation of Jesus, the woman in v. 6 is the covenant community of believers subsequent to his resurrection. But it is the same, one people of God, the one olive tree, predominantly Jewish in v. 1 (in its OT manifestation) and a glorious, universal mixture in v. 2 (in its NT manifestation).”

  • Some, mostly preterists, have taken this as a literal, physical escape of Christians to Pella (modern Tabaqat Fahil, 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee) as they fled the Roman seige of Jerusalem in 66 a.d., a view that is obviously only as good as the argument for a pre-70 a.d. authorship of the book.”
  • Dispensational pretribulational premillennialists, i.e., those who hold to an exclusively futurist interpretation of the book, contend that whereas v. 5 speaks of events in the first century, v. 6 speaks of events at the end of the age. I agree with Beale that ‘such a temporal hiatus can be read into the text only by a prior end-time scheme that an interpreter brings to the text’ (642; emphasis mine).“
  • “Steven Gregg mentions Hal Lindsey’s futuristic interpretation of v. 14 and ‘the two wings of the great eagle.’ Says Lindsey: ‘Some kind of massive airlift will rapidly transport these fleeing Jews across the rugged terrain to their place of protection. Since the eagle is the national symbol of the United States, it’s possible that the airlift will be made available by aircraft from the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean’ (179; !!!).”
  • Storms believes that the 1260 days represents “the entire inter-advent age, and not some chronologically precise 3 ½ year period at the end of history.”

Verses 7-9: Storms says, “I believe it is because of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that this defeat of the Devil occurs, indeed, has already occurred. Michael and his angels are given the task of expelling Satan consequent to the victory of Jesus at the time of His first coming (Lk. 10:18).”

  • “Satan’s accusations no longer have any legal or moral force following his defeat at the cross. This, I believe, is the meaning of his being ‘thrown down’ and there no longer being a ‘place found for them in heaven.’ In other words, this is not a description of a literal or spatial or geographical change in the devil’s dwelling place.”

Verse 10: “The fact that Satan has been defeated, that the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus have stripped him of his legal right to accuse the brethren is evidence that the ‘kingdom’ of God and the ‘authority’ of Christ have been inaugurated. Thus 12:10 does not merely anticipate the final and consummate coming of God’s kingdom but celebrates the presence of the kingdom in the here and now. See Mt. 12:28.

  • “There is also a correspondence or parallel between Satan’s fall in Rev. 12:10 and what we read in John 12:31-33. In this latter passage Jesus relates his impending work on the cross and his triumph over death in the resurrection to the demise of the devil: ‘”Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.’”

Verse 11: “Satan wins whenever we treasure anything more than Jesus… When you prioritize your life so that nothing means more to you than Jesus, you deprive Satan of any legal right to your heart or mind; you undermine and shortcircuit his power to influence your soul.”

Verse 12: “Note the description of saints in heaven as, literally, “tabernacling” there. The point is that they abide in a heavenly temple, i.e., in the very presence of God himself.”

  • Storms adds, “’he [the devil] has only a short time.’ This ‘short time’ = the 3 ½, 1,260 days, 42 months of 11:2-3; 12:6, 14 and 13:5.” As already noted, Storms sees this as a non-literal period of time, representing the Church age.

Verses 13-14: “These verses pick up where vv. 6 and 12 leave off. Failing to destroy the ‘child’ (Jesus), Satan turns his destructive attention to the ‘woman’, i.e., the people of God = the church.”

Verses 15-16: “Here the devil’s persecution of the church is described in the vivid imagery of water pouring forth from the serpent’s mouth in an effort to drown the woman. Again, some preterists want to find the fulfillment of this statement in the flooding of the Jordan river in 68 a.d. which prevented many Jews from escaping their Roman enemies, the result of which was their slaughter.”

  • “Historically speaking, one cannot help but recall the persecution of the church by Nero (late 60’s), Domitian (90’s), Marcus Aurelius (late 2nd century), Decius (@ 250 a.d.), Diocletian and Galerius (303-311 a.d.), and the almost unimaginable persecutions that we witnessed in the 20th century.”
  • “In addition to the above, vv. 15-16 also allude to the barrier of the Red Sea during Israel’s exodus from Egypt which God overcame and even turned against their enemies. In the Song of Moses we read: ‘Thou didst stretch out Thy right hand, the earth swallowed them’ (Exod. 15:12). This was done so that Israel could then proceed to God’s ‘holy habitation’ (Exod. 15:13; ‘holy resting place’ in LXX) which God had ‘prepared’ (Exod. 15:17; LXX) for them. Later in the wilderness ‘the earth opened its mouth and swallowed’ the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram because of their resistance to Moses’ leadership (Num. 16:12-14; Deut. 11:5-6; Ps. 106:17).”

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PJ Miller was so kind to reproduce a section from Steve Gregg’s book, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), regarding the period designated as 1260 days in Revelation 12:6 (cf. verse 14). This reproduced section (below) can be found here, posted as a comment:

http://pjmiller.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/revelation-12-future-or-fulfilled/

THE 1260 DAYS: INTRODUCTION

In chapters 11-13 of Revelation are repeated references to a period of time alternately designated as “forty-two months”, “twelve hundred sixty days” or “a time, and times, and half a time”.

These are probably three different ways of saying “three and a-half years.”

It is said that the Gentiles will trample the outer court and the holy city for this period (11:2). It is also the duration of the testimony of the two witnesses (11:3), of the preservation of the woman pursued by the dragon (12:6, 14), and of the continuing blasphemies of the beast (13:5).

Some believe the references are to the same three and a half year period.

Among Preterists, some identify the period as that of the Jewish war in rebellion against Rome (AD 66-70). Others think it corresponds to the length of Nero’s persecution of the Church, which began in November of AD 64 and ended with Nero’s death, June 9, AD 68.

Perhaps most futurists see here two such periods, totaling seven years. Some would suggest that all the events from Revelation 4:1 through chapter 19 transpire during this period, referring to it as “the Great Tribulation”.

Historicists understand the 1260 days as symbolic, for the same number of years, citing “the year for a day principle” from Ezekiel 4:6 as their basis.

According to this view, the synonymous periods ( “forty-two months”, “twelve hundred sixty days” or “a time, and times, and half a time”) should all be recalculated as 1260 days, and the days then interpreted as years. While Historicists are agreed upon this general rule, there is no consensus whatever regarding the beginning and ending of the period thus designated. One suggestion is that the period is the 1260 years from AD 538, when Ostrogoths abandoned their siege of Rome, until 1798 when the Pope was taken prisoner by the French General under Napoleon.

Another is that the 1260 years began at 606AD, when Phocas decreed himself to be the supreme head of the Church. Other opinions place the beginning of the period in AD 1 (Joachin), 455 (Mede), 533 (Cuninghame), 576 (Bengel), 608 (Elliot), 660 (Melancthon), 672 (Guinness), and 727 (Fysh).

Matthew Henry endorses the year for a day principle, and suggests that the 1260 years represents the reign of the antichrist (the Papal church) until the end of the world, but says the beginning of the period is unknown.

A common assumption among those who espouse a spiritual interpretation is to see the forty two months as symbolic of a period of indefinite length, the whole period of the suffering of the people of God in this dispensation, corresponding to the entire church age. Using three and a half years to describe the church age may be chosen to recall the “three and a half years of terror under Antiochus Epiphanes when the temple was desecrated (June 168 to December 165 BC)

Alternately, it may be intended to correspond to the actual length of Jesus’ earthly ministry, comparing the character of the church’s ministry to that of Christ.

Some commentators studiously avoid specificity on this point. Homer Haley simply says that the forty two months “indicates a broken period of time, a period of trial, persecution and oppression…the period of Roman persecution”

Leon Morris, after likening the period to that of Antiochus Epiphanes, concludes “So John will mean his readers to discern that the trial of the people of God will be of measurable duration and that they will be delivered out of it”

Ladd sees value in both the futurist and the spiritual explanations, thus “the three and a half years appear to represent the entire period of the domination of evil, but with special reference to the last days of this age”

The decision about which of these opinions is most correct, will be inseparably tied to the identification of the two witnesses (chapter 11), of the beast (chapter 13) and of the events described in chapter 12.

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Our study of Revelation 13 (Part 1 of 5) begins here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

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5 thoughts on “Revelation Chapter 12

  1. I would suggest that there is another explanation, one that comes from God and the Bible. Bible interpretation has always been highly subjective and slanted toward what men think is true, but I attempt to only use the Bible to explain the Bible and that changes almost everything we think about the subject of the woman in Rev 12. If you would like to see more about what I am talking about you can visit my blog at: http://agapegeek.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/the-true-identity-of-the-woman-in-revelation-12-pt-1/

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