Revelation Chapter 13 (Part 1: Verses 1-10)


REVELATION 13:1-10

Adam Maarschalk: October 22, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 13:1-10

A. The Beast from the Sea—the First Beast (Rev. 13:1-10)

Introduction/Disclaimer: In this five-part discussion, it will be suggested that the beast spoken of in this chapter is Nero, who ruled Rome from 54-68 AD. This premise flies in the face of the rather popular view that Revelation was written in 95 or 96 AD, so if this is new or troublesome to the reader, it may be helpful to first take a look at some compelling evidence that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD: [1] External evidence [2] Internal evidence (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Other internal evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation has been presented in our previous Revelation studies (chapters 1-12), all of which can be found here.

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Verse 1: We are introduced now to a beast which John describes as “rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.” The red dragon in Rev. 12:3 is also said to have “seven heads and ten horns,” and we know that this dragon is Satan (12:9), so this beast here in chapter 13 is clearly empowered by Satan. Additionally, it seems that “the sea” where mentioned elsewhere in this book refers to Gentiles [See the Appendix (D) in this post here, for a more detailed explanation of this pattern]. So this reference here is very likely a way of telling the first century reader that this beast is a prominent Gentile figure. This is similar to one of Daniel’s visions where he saw four great beasts coming “up out of the sea” (Daniel 7:3).

We will be told more about this beast, here in chapter 13 and also in chapter 17, including details about its 10 horns and seven heads. Before proceeding, though, I think this is an appropriate place to note the twofold nature of the beast. The following quote is a helpful one, from Kenneth Gentry in his book “Before Jerusalem Fell” (1998, p. 310):

…John allows some shifting in his imagery of the Beast: the seven-headed Beast is here conceived generically as the Roman Empire, there specifically as one particular emperor. It is impossible to lock down the Beast imagery to either one referent or the other. At some places the Beast has seven-heads that are seven kings collectively considered (Rev. 13:1; Rev. 17:3, 9-10). Thus, he is generically portrayed as a kingdom with seven kings that arise in chronological succession (cf. Rev. 17:10-11). But then again in the very same contexts the Beast is spoken of as an individual (Rev. 13:18), as but one head among the seven (Rev. 17:11). This feature, as frustrating as it may be, is recognized by many commentators [emphasis added].

So the beast in Revelation is sometimes spoken of as an individual (specific sense) and sometimes as a kingdom (generic sense). It’s not surprising that the beast is interchangeably an individual and a kingdom, if ancient Rome is in view here. As Gentry also notes, the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-18AD) once wrote regarding the emperor Augustus, “The state is Caesar.”

We will now look ahead briefly to the passage referred to in Revelation 17:9-10, where John speaks of this same beast and explains what the seven heads are. The following information is taken from a term paper I wrote earlier this year, entitled, “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD,” and can be found here:

More compelling evidence for an early date is found in John’s reference to seven kings in Revelation 17:9-10, which states, “This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.” This description of the seven kings lines up well with historical data showing the emperors who reigned in the Roman Empire up until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, which is as follows:

Order of Emperors Name of Emperor Length of Reign Notes/Details
#1 Julius Caesar October 49 BC – March 44 BC “Perpetual Dictator”
#2 Augustus January 27 BC – August 14 AD -time of Jesus’ birth
#3 Tiberius August 14 AD – March 37 AD -time of Jesus’ ascension
#4 Caligula March 37 AD – January 41 AD Murdered
#5 Claudius January 41 AD – October 54 AD Assassinated
#6 Nero October 54 AD – June 68 AD Committed suicide
#7 Galba June 68 AD – January 69 AD Murdered
#8 Otho January 69 AD – April 69 AD Committed suicide
#9 Vitellius April 69 AD – December 69AD Murdered
#10 Vespasian December 69 AD – June 79 AD Destroyed Jerusalem

Some historians do not consider Julius Caesar to be one of the emperors, and rather designate him as one who played a key role in transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), however, was one who did, and the above list reflects his own list in his writing titled Antiquities of the Jews (Books 18 and 19). Numerous Roman historians contemporary to Josephus agree. Among these were Dio Cassius and Suetonius (70-135 AD), who wrote Lives of the Twelve Caesars and De Vita Caesarum. Julius Caesar was appointed as “perpetual dictator” in 42 BC, so his inclusion in such a list would not have been strange.

According to the above list, then, Nero was the “king” of whom John said “one is” (i.e. “he is reigning now”), and Galba was the one who had “not yet come.” Galba reigned only six months, making him a good candidate to be the one who “must remain only a little while.”

The chart above indicates that there were more Roman emperors than were referenced by John. Kenneth Gentry quotes J. Russell Stuart, who spoke on this matter in his book Apocalypse:

But why only seven kings? First because the number seven is the reigning symbolic number of the book; then, secondly, because this covers the ground which the writer means specially to occupy, viz., it goes down to the period when the persecution then raging would cease (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 163).

We know that the imperial persecution initiated by Nero ceased with his death in 68 AD. Gentry makes the point that if it can be accepted that Revelation was written prior to that time, then “the enumeration of the ‘kings’ covers all of imperial history up until John’s time and the events ‘shortly’ to follow [a reference to the word ‘shortly’ in Rev. 1:1]… For then it would be the case that in John’s day only six emperors had ascended the imperial throne.”

Regarding the reference to seven mountains, there should be no doubt that this is speaking of Rome, and even Futurist scholars generally concede this point (although they may anticipate a revival of the Roman Empire). Gentry also notes that the Coin of Vespasian (emperor of Rome from 69-79 AD) discovered by archaeologists pictures the goddess Roma as a woman seated on seven hills. Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, is the one city in history famous for its seven mountains. First-century Rome used to celebrate a feast called Septimontium, the feast of “the seven-hilled city.”

Revelation 13:1 also depicts the beast as having 10 horns, which John says in Rev. 17:12-13 are “ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast.” Some have thought these 10 kings to be the very ones listed in the chart above, since all 10 of them reigned (or had begun to reign, in Vespasian’s case) before Jerusalem’s destruction. However, John wrote that in his day they had “not yet received royal power,” so this view is eliminated. Another more likely view is that these 10 kings were the rulers of the 10 empirical (senatorial) provinces of Rome who were empowered by Nero to assist him in carrying out his campaign of persecution against the saints, which Scripture refers to as “war on the Lamb” (Rev. 17:14; cf. Acts 9:5 where Paul, as an unbeliever, also made “war on the Lamb”).

The Global Glossary on the Greco-Roman world says there were 10 Senatorial Provinces in ancient Rome: They were “areas that were governed by Roman pro-magistrates; there were ten senatorial provinces, eight of which were led by ex-praetors and two of which were led by ex-consuls.” Wikipedia lists these 10 Senatorial Provinces, as they existed in 14 AD, as follows: [1] Achaea [2] Africa [3] Asia [4] Creta et Cyrene [5] Cyprus [6] Gallia Narbonensis [7] Hispania Baetica [8] Macedonia [9] Pontus et Bithynia [10] Sicilia. One Biblical mention of a Roman provincial ruler is in Acts 18:12-17, where we are told of Gallio the “proconsul of Achaia.” In Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas had direct contact with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7). See here for more information on the Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire, and how and by whom authority was distributed.

empire2a

Photo credit: http://gbgm-umc.org/UMW/corinthians/empire.stm (Original source: David Camden)

David Sielaff of Associates for Scriptural Knowledge answers the Futurist supposition that the beast will be a revived Roman empire, somehow corresponding with the European Union. He shows how this is impossible, since the borders of the EU are very much unlike the boundaries of the old Roman empire:

It is important to consider how the Roman Empire was constituted. It was a vast empire that spread from Britain in the north to south of Egypt, from Spain and North Africa in the west to the borders of Parthia (Iran today) in the east. In the 1st century, when the New Testament was written, the border of the Roman Empire in Europe stopped at the Rhine and Danube Rivers. It never included any significant portion of Germany or Eastern Europe. The center of the Roman Empire was never Gaul (France today). The heart of the Roman Empire in the 1st century were the great cities of Rome itself, Alexandria in Egypt, and the great Greek cities, with the great cities of Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem that were inland from the Mediterranean coast.

Source: David Sielaff, The Ten Nations and the Roman Empire, http://www.askelm.com/news/n040724.htm, 2004.

Verse 2: The beast is now described in such a way that it incorporates the traits of all four beasts that Daniel saw in a vision in his day (Daniel 7:1-8): that of a leopard, a bear, a lion, and having ten horns. Bible scholars seem to be in general, if not full, agreement that the beasts in Daniel’s vision represented the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. Steve Gregg remarks (in his book, Revelation: Four Views [A Parallel Commentary], pp. 280, 282), “It is interesting that, when Paul was discussing his release from imprisonment under Nero, he remarked, “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Tim. 4:17).

Q: Whose power, throne, and authority were given to this first beast?
A: The beast’s power, throne, and authority came from “the dragon,” whom we know to be Satan from Revelation 12:9.

Certain preterists, according to Steve Gregg, believe that “the concern of the Apocalypse has now shifted from the doom of Jerusalem to the judgment of Rome. Others, such as Milton Terry, think Rome is only brought into the picture as a chief agent of the judgment that came upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.” I agree with Milton Terry, who adds that “we have before us the Roman empire as a persecuting power…conceived as the organ of the old serpent, the Devil, to persecute the scattered saints of God” (p. 280).

Verses 3-4: John now observes that one of the beast’s seven heads had what appeared to be a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, causing the whole earth [or “land,” a common reference to Israel, as we have seen in previous posts] to worship the beast. This will be brought up again when we come to verse 12, but two theories regarding this mortally wounded head are that it refers to the survival of the Roman Empire after the stunning deaths of [1] Julius Caesar or [2] Nero. At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, Steve Gregg comments (p. 282):

Even if Nero is the head mortally wounded, it is not he who personally survives the wound, but the beast that survives the wounding of one of its heads. At the death of Nero, the Roman Empire was thrown into violent convulsions of civil war and anarchy, in which three emperors succeeded one another within a single year. Historians consider it astonishing that the empire stabilized and survived this period that might easily have spelled the end of the imperial rule. Thus the recovery of the empire under Vespasian was a marvel to all—the beast of the empire had survived the mortal wounding of one of its heads (Nero).

[Surprisingly, several Futurist writers agree with this interpretation, including John Walvoord, Robert H. Mounce, G.B. Caird, and James Moffat, who (despite being a late-date scholar) even attributes this passage to the “terrible convulsions which in 69 A.D. shook the (Roman) empire to its foundation” (Gentry, p. 315). Walvoord believes the “wounding of one of the heads” to be “a reference to the fact that the Roman Empire as such seemingly died and is now (in the future) going to be revived” (Gregg, p. 285).

It’s only fair to point out that some partial-preterists view the healed mortal wound as a reference to the survival of the Roman empire, not after the death of Nero (in 68 AD) but after the death of Julius Caesar (44 BC). Arthur M. Ogden, for example, in his book “The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets: Commentary on Revelation” (Ogden Publications: Pinson, AL, 1985), tied this prophecy to events during the nearly 30 year “transfer of power from the (Roman) republic to the empire (61 BC—31 BC).” He writes:

“(Julius Caesar) wore the purple robe of royalty, but the old prejudice against kings denied him the title and crown. Yet he was made dictator for ten years, and then became censor and high priest for life… All responsible authority centered in himself as monarch of the Roman Empire… From the chief executive power in the State, the Senate was degraded to the place of an advisatory council” (Joy, James Richard, Rome and the Making of Modern Europe, [New York; Flood and Vincent, 1893], page 100)…

The smoldering fires of anger among the degraded senators erupted into full flame when, on March 15, 44 B.C., 60 members of the Senate attacked him on the Senate floor. With daggers in hand they inflicted 23 wounds which insured his death. With cries of “Liberty is restored” they celebrated what they thought was the end of Imperialism, but “his deadly wound was healed” (cf. Rev. 13:3) and the empire survived.]

Is it a surprise that the Jews** (“the whole earth”; verse 3) would worship the beast? Do we see any indication in the gospels of their willingness to do so? Steve Gregg (p. 286) reminds us of an instance where the Jews not only refused to give allegiance to Christ, but they clearly expressed their allegiance to Caesar instead:

Given the opportunity to own Christ as their king before Pilate, the Jews proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). Alfred Edersheim writes: “With this cry Judaism was, in the person of its representatives, guilty of denial of God, of blasphemy, of apostasy. It committed suicide.”

As a side note, in this example from John’s gospel, we see that the rulers of Rome were not only called “emperors,” but also “kings.” This brings further light to the text of Revelation 17:10, where the seven “kings” can easily be understood as Roman emperors. Here in Revelation 13:4, we see not only the Jews’ adoration of Rome’s incomparable power and stamina (“Who is like the beast…?”), but also their sense of being powerless to oppose Rome in any way (“…and who can fight against it?”).

**[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 5-7: The beast, who John told us has a mouth like a lion, begins to speak “haughty and blasphemous words.”

Q: What type of blasphemies did the beast speak?
A: He spoke blasphemies against God’s name, God’s “dwelling,” and against those who dwell in heaven.

Q: What was the extent of the authority granted to the beast?
A: He was allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them, but only for 42 months. He had authority “over every tribe and people and language and nation.” This can be seen to refer to the known world at the time, or to the Roman Empire (See Luke 2:1 to observe how “all the world” clearly referred to the Roman Empire).

The following information is taken from my term paper on 70 AD, with this specific portion coming from here:

Prior to Nero’s persecution, writes Kenneth Gentry (2002), persecution against Christians had come largely from the Jews. Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism, which was a “legal religion.” Gentry notes, “Earlier Paul had safely appealed to Nero Caesar (Acts 25:11-12; 28:19) and in A.D. 62 had been acquitted and released.” Herbert Workman, in his 1906 work, Persecution in the Early Church, said that Rome didn’t make a clear distinction between Christianity and Judaism until 64 AD (pp. 62-63).

Kenneth Gentry takes note of the testimonies of early historians regarding Nero’s campaign of persecution against Christians (pp. 54-55, 64-66). Clement of Rome (30-100 AD) said that it targeted “a vast multitude of the elect…through many indignities and tortures.” Eusebius (260-340 AD) pointed out that Nero was “the first of the emperors who showed himself an enemy of the divine religion,” and Lactantius (240-320 AD) agrees by saying of Nero, “He it was who first persecuted the saints of God.” Sulpicius Severus (360-420 AD) said that he was “the basest of all men, and even of wild beasts, [showing himself] in every way most abominable and cruel…he first attempted to abolish the name of Christian.” Sulpicius devoted two chapters to Nero’s reign of terror in his Sacred History, but only three sentences for Domitian. In 1854 church historian John Laurence von Mosheim added these thoughts:

Foremost in the rank of those emperors, on whom the church looks back with horror as her persecutors, stands Nero, a prince whose conduct towards the Christians admits of no palliation [minimizing], but was to the last degree unprincipled and inhuman. The dreadful persecution which took Diace by order of this tyrant, commenced at Rome about the middle of November, in the year of our Lord 64. This dreadful state of persecution ceased with the death of Nero. The empire, it is well known, was not delivered from the tyranny of this monster until A.D. 68, when he put an end to his own life.[1]

Tacitus, the Roman historian who lived from 56-117 AD, wrote in detail of Nero’s move to persecute the saints soon after the fire that raged through Rome, destroying 10 out of 14 city divisions:

But by no human contrivance, whether lavish contributions of money or of offerings to appease the gods, could Nero rid himself of the ugly rumor that the fire was due to his orders. So to dispel the report, he substituted as the guilty persons and inflicted unheard-of punishments on those who, detested for their abominable crimes, were vulgarly called Christians…wrapped in the hides of wild beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or fastened to crosses to be set on fire, that when the darkness fell they might be burned to illuminate the night (Tacitus, Annals 15:44).

The most remarkable detail about Nero’s campaign of persecution is that it lasted just over 42 months, which Revelation 13:5-8 records is the length of time that would be given to the beast to war against and conquer the saints. The persecution ended when Nero died on June 9, 68 AD. In this context, Revelation 13:10 was a comfort to the saints. Not only were they already told that the beast would only be allowed to persecute them for 3.5 years, but they were also told how their persecutor would be removed: “…he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” Nero ended his life by thrusting his sword through his own throat, with the help of his personal secretary, Epaphroditus, when he realized that his popularity had waned and that a coup was in the making.

Verse 7: God allows the beast “to make war on the saints and conquer them.” We saw in chapter 12 how the dragon (Satan) became enraged with “the woman” and “went off to make war on the rest of her offspring” (Rev. 12:17). This is clearly a reference to persecution of the Church, for “her offspring” are identified as “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” At this point, the Jewish believers have escaped from Jerusalem (Rev. 12:13-16; also the post on Revelation 7), but the believers in general throughout the Roman Empire are targeted for persecution and many are martyred. (Note the language in 12:17, which says “And he [the dragon] stood on the sand of the sea.”) John records that authority is given to the beast, not just over Israel, but “over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Steve Gregg (p. 288) quotes from David S. Clark, who writes regarding Nero’s campaign of persecution,

Rome becomes the Devil’s agent. History tells us of the persecutions of Rome; how Paul was beheaded, and Peter crucified head downwards; how the Christians were thrown to the lions, exposed to the cold, drowned in rivers, thrown into cauldrons of boiling oil, daubed with pitch and burned for torchlights; how every conceivable torture was inflicted on them; how all the might and power of the Roman empire were exerted to extirpate them, till the church at length conquered its persecutor.

Regarding the 42 month limit for the beast’s intense persecution of the Church, Jay Adams tells us why it was important for John’s first-century readers to know this detail:

Since many were about to face a period of great persecution, they are encouraged to endure by the comforting revelation that though it will be severe, it will be short. The time of the dragon’s authority to overcome the saints is only 42 months (Steve Gregg, p. 288).

Here I would like to quote again from what I wrote in my term paper a few months ago. This is takenfrom the following post:

Numerous church fathers and leaders during the first several centuries identified Nero as the beast of the book of Revelation, or speculated that it was he. These include Clement of Alexandria [150-215 AD], Tertullian [160-220 AD], Augustine [354-430 AD], and Jerome [347-420 AD] who stated the following in his commentary on Daniel 11:27-30:

As for the Antichrist, there is no question but what he is going to fight against the holy covenant, and that when he first makes war against the king of Egypt, he shall straightway be frightened off by the assistance of the Romans. But these events were typically prefigured under Antiochus Epiphanes, so that this abominable king who persecuted God’s people foreshadows the Antichrist, who is to persecute the people of Christ. And so there are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.

C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr. (1995) point to historical details from the reign of Nero to show how he fit the Biblical description of the beast introduced in Revelation 13 (pp. 41-42, emphasis added):

The blasphemous worship demanded by the beast distinctly reminds one of the imperial cult of the first century, and the war the beast wages on the saints cannot help but recall the intense persecutions Nero, and later Domitian, inflicted on Christians because they did not worship Caesar.  Nero’s persecution of Christians from November AD 64 [when he blamed the Christians for the massive fire he started] to June AD 68 could account, in part, for the forty-two months (or 3 ½ years) of oppression mentioned in Rev. 13:5. The reference in Revelation 13:11-15 to the beast of the land securing worship for the beast from the sea (Rome was across the sea from the place of the writing of the Apocalypse, Asia Minor) reminds one of the local priests of the imperial cult in Asia Minor whose task was to compel the people to offer a sacrifice to Caesar and proclaim him Lord.  Megalomaniac that he was, Nero had coins minted in which he was called “almighty God” and “Savior.” Nero’s portrait also appears on coins as the god Apollo playing a lyre.  While earlier emperors were proclaimed deities upon their deaths, Nero abandons all reserve and demanded divine honors while still alive (as did also Caligula before him, AD 37-41).  Those who worshipped the emperor received a certificate or mark of approval – charagma, the same word used in Revelation 13:16 [the famed mark of the beast].

Verses 8-10: All of national Israel (note the phrase “all who dwell on earth”), worshipped the beast, except for those whose names were “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.”

Verse 10 is stated quite differently in the [1] ESV (English Standard Version) than it is in the [2] New King James Version: [1] “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” [2] “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Without attempting to do a Greek study to see which translation is more accurate, suffice it to say that this appears to be a clear prophecy regarding how the beast (in the singular sense) would be slain. Verse 14, in fact, speaks of “the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 218) and others believe this prophecy pointed to Nero’s impending death. This was to be taken as a comforting fact, helping the believers in Nero’s day to endure through intense persecution in light of this prophecy. Nero martyred thousands (including Paul) by the sword, and Kenneth Gentry reminds us that “Tertullian [145-220 AD] credits ‘Nero’s cruel sword’ as providing the martyr’s blood as seed for the church” (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 218).  It’s a historical fact that Nero also met his own suicidal demise at the hand of a sword. He did indeed live and die by the sword. It was this event in June 68 AD which brought an end to this most intense period of persecution against the Church.

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In the next post (part 2 of 5), we will be introduced to the beast’s main advocate, a second beast.

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


[1] I Clement 6:1; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2:25:2-3; Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors 2:2; Severus, Sacred History 2:29; John L. von Mosheim, History of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (New York: Converse, 1854) 1:138-139.

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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.