INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION

A Sweeping History of the Conflict Between God and Satan
From the Great Rebellion to the Second Coming of Christ

Part One: The Celestial Woman, the Dragon, and the Woman's Son
(Rev. 12:1-12)

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THE SCRIPTURES

1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when to death. 12 "For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."


INTRODUCTION

Revelation 12-14 is one of the most wonderful yet problematic passages in the entire book of Revelation. It begins with describing prehistorical events, takes us up to the time of the birth of Christ and His resurrection, and then finishes with the Great Tribulation and the Rapture.

What's the problem though? Its location. If Rev. 12-14 had been written separately from the book of Revelation, it would not have caused as much confusion as it has caused. The reason its location presents a problem is that it is out of sequence chronologically. From Rev. 1-11 (with the notable exception of Rev. 7) John has been presenting events in a chronological manner. He resumes this sequence in Rev. 15. Rev. 12-14 breaks up that sequence with a wonderful interlude. (For example, at least SOME of the events of chapter 12-14 had to occur BEFORE the tribulation which started in Rev. 6: the birth of Christ, the original rebellion in heaven. Since these chapters occur between the 7th trumpets and the 1st bowl of wrath, it is best to separate them out and then study them independently of the rest of Revelation. After studying these chapters, we shall then relate them to the rest of Revelation.

How has this passage caused confusion? It has led many to believe that the rapture occurs half-way during the tribulation, between the sounding of the 7th trumpet and the pouring out of the first bowl of wrath which concludes all the wrath God is going to pour out upon rebellious mankind. As we study Rev. 12-14 as a unit, you will see that this rapture which occurs in Rev. 14 actually occurs at the END of the tribulation and not half-way through it.


THE CELESTIAL WOMAN (12:1-2, 6)

John in chapters 12-13 is presenting to us the major characters in the dramatic conflict between Satan and Christ. The first major character is the celestial, heavenly woman. Answer the following questions to determine how John describes the Celestial Woman in Rev. 12:1-2:

1. The woman is clothed with what?

2. What was under her feet?

3. What kind of crown did she wear?

4. She was with what?

5. According to Rev. 12:5 who is the child she is pregnant with?

Whatever is true of this Celestial Woman, she is a glorious being as evidenced by the fact that she is clothed with heavenly bodies: sun, moon, and 12 stars. The question now becomes, "Who is this Celestial Woman?"

  1. Many conservative Christians claim that this woman is the nation of Israel, or they claim it refers to the people of Israel who gave birth to the Messiah. The 12 stars on her head and the reference to the sun and moon seem to allude to Joseph's dream which uses these symbols to refer to the family of Jacob, the beginning of the Jewish race. The only problem with this claim is that there were actually 2 parents in Joseph's dream, the father and the mother, not just the mother as in this passage.
  2. Others claim that this woman refers to the people of God which in the days of the OT were the Jewish people and in today's time are the church of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of such a woman in Gal. 4:21-31, "the Jerusalem above which is our mother."
  3. She may refer to Eve. According to Gen. 3:15 Eve who brought great hostility into the world between her and the serpent will one day bring forth a son who will destroy the serpent. In fact, she names her first son "Cain" (which she interprets to mean "I acquired a man from the Lord") in the hopes he will be the son who destroys the serpent. Paul actually claims that Eve will be "saved" through the bearing of children, but because through the bearing of this one Son, Jesus (1 Tim. 2:15). (Notice that there is no celestial man, only the celestial woman. According to Gen. 3:15 it is the woman's son who destroys the serpent, not the man's, an implicit reference to the virgin birth of Jesus.) All these images are actually at play in Rev. 12.
  4. Finally, others claim that it describes Mary, the mother of Jesus, who represents the people of God (up to this time, the people of God were Israel itself). This one is particularly interesting because in his gospel, John, the author Revelation, continually refuses to call Jesus' mother by her name, "Mary." Rather, he continually calls her "the woman" or "mother," the term used here in Rev. 12 of the celestial woman. It seems like Mary, though a real historical figure, represents more than just the single mother of Jesus; she may be representing the people of God. Because John is behind both the Gospel of John and Revelation, I would opt for this last interpretation. What is even more interesting is that Mary was considered by the early church to be the new Eve. The first Eve brought forth sin and death; the new Eve brought forth righteousness and salvation through the birth of her Son. Eve's son who is Mary's Son will destroy the serpent. Through Mary then, the promise specifically referring to Eve (Gen. 3:15), is finally fulfilled.


THE WOMAN'S ADVERSARY--THE SERPENT (12:3)

Description of Satan

According to John, the woman's main adversary is a dragon who is likewise called a serpent. (In fact, dragons were considered serpents with wings and feet.) According to John what is the color of the dragon, the color describing blood (12:3)?

Heads normally point to wisdom. How many heads did the dragon have (12:3)?

The horn is normally the main weapon beasts would use in warfare. How many horns did the dragon have (12:3)?

What were upon the dragon's heads (symbols of splendor and authority)?

Now no one believes that this kind of creature exists literally in this form. The image of the dragon is supposed to strike terror into the hearts of its readers. In fact, according to the History Channel in its tale about Beowulf, the dragon was the most feared creature in ancient times. The dragon then serves as an appropriate image for the most fearsome of creatures, Satan himself.


Numerology

At this point we see a new element being introduced into Revelation, numerology. Numerology is basically the study of the significance of numbers. Now for us in the western world, numbers simply are what they are. Four is 4; five is 5; nothing more. That was not true in the ancient world. In fact, in the ancient world letters were used for numbers. For example, in the Roman world the letter "I" also functioned as the number "1." The letter "V" was the number "5." (Other examples: "X" for "10"; "L" for "50"; "C" for "100"; "D" for "500"; and "M" for "1,000."

In the Bible numbers take on special significance, the most important being 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12, and 1000. (Later on in Christianity the number 8 became important.) The following gives you the significance of these numbers in the Bible:

  1. 3: the number for God, especially the TRI-une God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. 4: the number for the earth: the FOUR winds from the FOUR corners of the earth
  3. 7: 3+4=7, that is, heaven and earth becoming 1. It also represents completion (SEVEN years are needed to complete the tribulation). Half of 7 then becomes an evil term: 3 1/2 years in which the Antichrist wages war against God's people. (This period of 3 1/2 years is also expressed as 42 months or 1260 days.)
  4. 6: one less than 7; the number of evil. 666 = 6 cubed or ultimate evil. (Later in Christianity 8 became the number for Christ because He is better than 7, that is, He is better than perfect!)
  5. 10: completion.
  6. 12: the number for religion--the TWELVE tribes of the Israelites, Jesus' TWELVE apostles. 12x12=144--this would include both the OT people of God (the Jews) PLUS the NT people of God (Christians).
  7. 1000: 10x10x10=1,000 or total completion, for example, the 1,000-year reign of Christ.

Applying numerology to the dragon, we see that the 7 heads represent an incredible amount of wisdom , that the 10 horns represent incredible strength , and that the 7 diadems represent spectacular glory.


THE HEAVENLY CONFLICT (12:4-12)

The Pre-Historical Conflict Between Satan and God

In this passage John is condensing all the events which extend over a period of millennia into a very short space of verses--the rebellion of Satan against God which is prehistorical, the birth of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ensuing conflict between Christ and Satan, and finally another major jump to the time when Satan's accomplice, the Antichrist, persecutes the people of God.

Notice that although Revelation tells us about the conflict between Christ and Satan, in Rev. 12-14 the conflict is described as being between THE WOMAN'S CHILDREN and Satan, the main child of the woman being Christ, but to a large degree being ALL of Eve's true children, not ALL physical descendants of Eve, such as Cain and other non-Christians, but all true SPIRITUAL descendants, such as Abel and all those who believe in Christ. From this woman, Mary who represents Eve and her spiritual children, emerged the Christ. This conflict which began in the Garden of Eden has extended throughout the millennia and will be concluded only at the return of Christ (Gen. 3:15). As 1 John 2:18, Matt. 24, etc., show us, this is not just a one-time, end-time conflict. It has been going on since the beginning of time and will only be concluded upon the return of Christ. In order to fulfill the prophecy in Gen. 3:15, it will be necessary that the woman's son defeat the serpent. It actually takes Eve's greatest Son, Jesus, put an end to the conflict.

The conflict we are about to study is believed by most conservative theologians to have occurred BEFORE the creation of the world. By the time of Genesis 3 we see that evil has already made its presence known. The story of Eve and the serpent does not tell about the beginning of the serpent's evil; the serpent is evil before the story begins. According to Rev. 12:4 what had the dragon swept away with his tail?

According to Rev. 1:20 who do the stars symbolize?

Probably the most famous telling of this event is found in John Milton's Paradise Lost in which Satan launches his rebellion against God and takes a third of the angelic realm with him, even extending that rebellion to mankind in the Garden of Eden. Rev. 12:4 provided the seed for Milton's story.


The Attack Against Christ (12:4b-6)

According to Rev. 12:4b why was Satan standing before the woman?

What is so special about this child the woman is about to give birth to (12:5)?

Who would this child be?

Does the dragon succeed in his attempt to destroy the child?

What prevents the dragon from being successful in his attempt to destroy the child?

What event is John referring to when he says that the child was caught up into heaven?

In order to escape the dragon's wrath, where does the celestial woman flee to (12:6)?

How long does she stay in the wilderness?


Wherever the woman flees to, it is a place of safety. It would be really strange if the woman represents the Jewish nation of Israel since after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, Israel was scattered to the 4 winds of the earth after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. I think that the LAST thing the Jews felt during that period was safety. It again most likely refers to the universal people of God, represented by Eve and Mary, who are safe no matter what Satan does. Yes, he will be able to persecute members of God's people; however, the overall people of God--the NT church and the OT people of God--are ultimately safe. There will always be a church.


Satan's Attack Against Heaven (12:7-12)

Having failed to destroy the celestial woman and her child while He was on earth, the dragon attacks Christ who has ascended into heaven. According to v. 7 who in heaven actually fought against the dragon (Satan) and his angels?

What was the outcome of the war (12:8-9)?

All this may seem really strange to us; however, if you look carefully at some other passages in the NT, you will see that the NT views the cross as the site of a major battle between Christ and Satan (Col. 2:15). In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis picks up on this concept by having a major battle occur between the White Witch (Satan) and the forces of good led by Peter right after Aslan (Christ) dies and rises again.

Now some may object to war; however, Christianity is full of images of war, both in the OT and NT.

Up to this point, Satan may have been granted access to the heavenly court. For example, we read in Job that Satan is allowed into heaven to dialogue with God. Now, though, Satan is cast down out of heaven. At this point what is heaven's response to Satan's finally being expelled from heaven once and for all (12:10-12a)?

It is as if heaven breathes a huge sigh of relief now that Satan can no longer access the courts of heaven.

What is heaven's attitude about what is about to happen to the earth (12:12b)?

Whatever else this passage is teaching us, it is teaching us that there has been a conflict going on between God and Satan since before the foundation of the earth. Moreover, so much of life, including YOUR life, needs to be understood in light of this conflict. Many of the problems you face in life are due to the fact that Satan is targeting you because of your relationship with Jesus. Basically Satan doesn't care about you; he cares about you mainly in the sense that you have chosen to be with Christ in this war. Unless you understand that so much of life concerns this conflict, you and your loved ones are going to suffer terribly spiritually because of that conflict.