The Woman and the Dragon
12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Satan Thrown Down to Earth
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
Revelation 12 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Revelation 12 and the next two chapters to follow are loaded with much to consider. The massive struggle between good and evil begins and the church itself is put on full alert. Between Revelation 12-14, it can be viewed as a period of great despair book-ended by a beginning and ending of hope.
Satan is the great enemy of the church. He fights against God and His people on different fronts and his tactics of warfare many. He accuses, lies, he intimidates and as we’ll see also goes to whatever length he can to be the victor. However, Christ has overcome – and in the end, brings the victory.
The writing we will see here of John is interesting – as he borrows imagery from the Old Testament and Pre-Christian traditions and weaves them into a new tapestry that tells an almost mini-drama about redemption. On some levels, it seems displaced here – but there is purpose behind this fresh angle of storytelling he lays out.
This drama unfolds essentially as the age-old conflict between Jesus and Satan. The plot features a child of destiny, one that Satan tries to kill. Upon failure, he unleashes his venom against the people from whom Jesus descended and those who profess allegiance to Him. Each symbol, and there are a lot of symbols, speak boldly about the story of redemption.
This chapter is set up like a 3 act drama. Immediately we’re introduced to a life-threatening danger as a woman is in the throes of childbirth, confronted by a red dragon intent on devouring her newborn. The dragon himself is backed by fallen stars. But who is this woman? Her description is interesting as she’s clothed with the sun, the moon beneath her feet and a crown rests upon her head that holds 12 stars. And this gives us somewhat of a clue.
As usual, there has been a wide range of arguments over who she actually is. There has been discussion that this woman is the Virgin Mary. There has been discussion that it is actually a Christianized version of ancient mythology. However, what the majority of people believe is that this woman is a representation of the people of God. Meaning, this is a symbol first of all of Israel under the Old Covenant.
But as we’ll see in a bit this is also the people who have been brought into the family of God through Jesus Christ in the new covenant. And it was through this woman, through the Jewish people that Jesus the Messiah was born and this covenant to them became a covenant to us through the birth of Jesus and redemption He has brought to all who believe in him.
Within the book of Genesis – Joseph had a dream involving 12 stars which in turn represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Various prophets from Jeremiah to Ezekiel to Hosea refer to Israel as a woman. There are even passages, some of the poetic prophets have written, speaking of a woman in contractions of birth – waiting for redemption to come to Israel. All these aspects tend to lean toward this being who the woman represents.
The red dragon with 7 heads and a bad attitude represents Satan himself.
The male child with an iron scepter is that of Jesus, the Redeemer of humankind. As Revelation 12 opened, it said this was an event of great significance. And great significance it was indeed. For what was set from the beginning of time was God would redeem His creation through His one and only Son, Jesus. He is the faithful witness. He is the ruler of all the kings of the earth.
It’s quite a dramatic image of the dragon standing over the lady waiting for the birth of a baby to devour immediately. Yet, throughout the Old Testament history, Satan tried to prevent the birth of the Redeemer. There was always a dragon waiting to destroy Israel or the ancestors of the Messiah. Ezekiel called Pharaoh a monster(Ezekiel 29:3). Nebuchadnezzar was also referred to as one. Even at one critical point in history, the royal line was limited to one little boy as Athaliah killed off the entire royal line – save one who was hidden.
Even when Jesus was born, Herod attempted to destroy Him (Matthew 2). Satan thought he’d succeeded when he used Judas to betray Jesus but the cross was his defeat. When you look at this aspect alone – Satan has done everything he possibly could through weak people – to stop the Messiah from coming. Yet that was not even a probability. Although he tried – God kept at least one alive in the lineage of David to bring forth His Son.
Yet, amazingly in this story, this child of Promise escapes. He’s snatched away and taken to God and to His throne. Somehow the woman escapes as well.
Act 2 begins – this would be that of a cosmic slug-fest. Satan outwitted, a war break breaks out in heaven, where, in the end, He is tossed from heaven at the charge of the big guns, Archangel Michael. Michael has been a defender of God’s people – we read this in Daniel 12. Daniel 10 and Jude leads us to believe he is the leader of the angelic army who is loyal solely to God. In the end, 1/3 of the angelic population fell with him. This passage here and also a passage in Isaiah 14 speaks of this event.
And so we come to Act 3 – Satan on a leash. What begins is a rejoicing in heaven as Satan has been hurled from there. We’ll see some powerful thoughts that are stated about the ones who overcome the accuser. The woman returns center stage. Satan directly assaults her – but he doesn’t have unlimited power. There is seemingly a providential protection. Frustrated he turns his war toward her children, the Christ Followers.
Satan suffers 2 stunning setbacks here. Michael and angels not only oust him from heaven. But the Followers in what seems to be heaven, defeat him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.
This same serpent who accuses the Followers also deceives the nations.
“…the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.“Revelation 12:9
One of his greatest strategies is to lie about the church, about Jesus’ followers. He deceives the nations into thinking that the people of God are dangerous, deluded, destructive. He intimidates Believers from living their life full-blown for Jesus Christ. He cripples forgiven people with their past. He stunts people in their walk through circumstances that pose questions of “How could a God…?” and become of little help to the Kingdom – they may even walk away from it.
We are in a war. This is a battle cry for us to wake up and see this truth. To live boldly for Jesus Christ no matter what Satan may try to throw against us. He wants every soul who has turned toward Jesus.
Amid the assault – the people of God were able to resist the attacks. And it seems odd that being so much weaker virtually in every way they manage to overcome the powerful red dragon. But their key to victory was found in 3 items listed here:
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.Revelation 12:11
It is Jesus’ Blood that gives us perfect standing before God. The blood of Jesus is powerful as it is what cleanses us from all sin, from all our past. He willingly gave up His life for us, for you – and it is by that sacrifice of his death, the blood spilled – forgiveness can be and is given. And it is His blood that defeats the enemy.
The blood of Jesus is powerful and must cover us all. Not only was it the blood though, it was the word of their testimony – the living out their faith and their willingness to lay down their lives for Jesus.
All of these things are essential for our ability to stand firm in the mighty power of God; to stand our ground, be alert and persistent and pray in the Spirit at all times. We must not love our lives so much that we would not give them for Jesus.
In the end, this is what truth remains from this chapter – despite the dragon’s best efforts – he cannot thwart the kingdom of the child destined to rule the nations. He cannot. He may cause carnage, but he cannot stop what God has determined in the end.
Revelation 12 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
It is out of Israel that the Messiah will come, therefore, it makes sense that the woman would represent not only Israel but also the Messianic community. We can marry these two ideas because in verse 17, the woman also represents the church age. As for Israel, there are many passages in the OT that back up this interpretation.
“As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O LORD.”Isaiah 26:17 NASB
“Writhe and labor to give birth, Daughter of Zion, Like a woman in childbirth; For now, you will go out of the city, Dwell in the field, And go to Babylon. There you will be rescued; There the LORD will redeem you From the hand of your enemies.”Micah 4:10 NASB
The Great Red Dragon
There is no speculating the identity of the dragon. John refers to him specifically as Satan. The multi-headed description is symbolism that would have been recognized by the readers of John’s time. The Psalms speak of the many heads of Leviathan which was also used to describe Israel’s enemies.
“You crushed the heads of Leviathan; You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.”Psalms 74:14 NASB
“In that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, With His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted serpent; And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.”Isaiah 27:1 NASB
The description here also references the fourth beast of Daniel 7. Both are described as having ten horns.
“After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”Daniel 7:7 NASB
The Male Child
The child symbolizes Jesus and John goes directly from his birth and rescue to his ascension. The point of this being that the plan of Satan to overcome God’s Son was destroyed by Christ’s ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. Jesus was snatched up by God to His throne.
Picking up in verse 7, it is Michael, not Jesus, who wars against Satan. Michael plays a significant role in kingdom matters, especially in Daniel 12.
“”Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”Daniel 12:1 NASB
He also contends with Satan over the body of Moses in Jude. Here, Satan loses his battle with Michael and is sent away with no longer a place in Heaven. Until this time, apparently, Satan still had some kind of place in Heaven. Jesus describes this scene with a vision in the book of Luke.
“And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”Luke 10:18 NASB
Satan Thrown Down
All throughout history, Satan is described as a liar, a deceiver, and an accuser. It is no coincidence that Revelation 12 moves from describing him as an accuser, to the praise and worship of Jesus Christ, and finally, to the victory we have as believers through the blood of the lamb and the words of our testimony. Revelation 12:11 is one of my favorites verses in all of Scripture.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.Revelation 12:11 ESV
Satan is overcome by Michael and his angels but also overcome by the faithful believers who put their trust in the slain lamb. But John adds a curious detail that would have resonated with the early church. “..and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
Now that Satan is thrown down his furious rage turns to the woman (the church). If you remember the story of Saul (Paul), he was suddenly and powerfully approached by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Jesus asked him, “Why are you persecuting me?” Paul had no idea. Paul thought he was simply persecuting Christians. This is a great truth that brings unbelievable encouragement.
When Satan turns his attention against the church, Jesus stands between us with absolute authority. Christ is inseparable from his faithful sons and daughters. Though Satan tries everything in his power to destroy the church, Jesus promises that even the gates of Hell will not overcome. This is a promise that spoke clearly to the early church and it should encourage us today as well!