12:1-6: The Mystical woman and The Mystical Dragon.
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”(Rev.12:1-6).
Verse one deals with the identity of this woman. It is not difficult to find out who she is insofar as scripture is interpreted by scripture. In Genesis 37:9-11, Joseph dreamed a dream in which the sun, the moon and the eleven stars did obeisance to him. He told this dream to his father and his brethren: “and his father rebuked him, and said unto him what is this dream that you dreamed, shall I and your mother and your brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” In Hebrew and Middle Eastern mythology generally, the sun is the symbol of the man(male, father) and the moon the symbol of the woman(female, mother) and the stars are their male offspring(sons). Here the patriarch and matriarch and the sons of Israel are represented. There is no confusion about the identity of this woman, she is Israel. The twelve stars are the twelve tribes of Israel. Some interpreters have tried to identify this woman as the Church. That interpretation does not fit the description as we shall see in verse three. Joseph’s dream was fulfilled: he was sold into slavery in Egypt out of envy, by his brethren. He became prime minister of Egypt; and there was famine in the whole Middle East. His brethren came to purchase food in Egypt. Egypt had food because Joseph had used his God given wisdom and ingenuity to preserve and store food in the days of plenty. They bowed themselves to him to the Earth in fulfilment of the dream. Subsequently his whole family came to live with him in Egypt and became slaves in exile in the land of Egypt. The divine rescue of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and forging them into a nation and a peculiar people of God is the story of the Old Testament.
There are some who teach that Europe and North America are the lost ten tribes, that the church there have replaced Israel. This is false. The ten tribes were not lost in Europe and America but in Asia. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the exiles have being making Aliya to Israel. Recently, members of the lost tribe of Menashe were brought to Israel from India.
In verse two, we find this mystical woman pregnant with a child. She was in labour pains and cried out to be delivered. The revelator here takes us back in time to the Palestine in the Roman period. Israel as a nation was in travail. They were ruled by Imperial Rome through a puppet King, Herod the great. Herod was not a Jew by birth. He was proselyte to Judaism. His father Antipater was an Idumean who originally came from Philistine, but converted to Judaism when the Jews conquered Idumea during the reign of the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus(135 BC). Herod was an oppressive ruler. The nation of Israel as a whole, at that time, were crying out to God for deliverance from foreign domination. They hated to pay tax to a foreign power. The site of the Roman soldier in his oppressive military gear was a constant reminder of domination by Imperial Rome. No nation welcomes foreign domination, let alone an oppressive one, and Israel was no exception. They were expecting their Messiah to come and free them from oppressive Roman domination. The expectation of a conquering Messiah(Messiah Ben David) instead of a suffering Messiah(Messiah ben Joseph) was partly responsible for the failure of the Jewish leadership and the larger majority of the people to recognize Jesus as their expected Messiah. There were series of revolts by Jews which were routlessly and savagely quelled by the Roman legions stationed in the land. There were also self-proclaimed messiahs purported to deliver the Jews from Roman domination, like Theudas and Judas of Galilee(Acts 5: 37-38). Details of these revolts are beyond the scope of this comment. Interested students are advised to consult Josephus, The Wars of the Jew.
The land of Israel was at that time referred to as Palestine by Imperial Rome. This was a Roman version of Philistine which the Jews refer to as Philistim i.e., sea peoples. The Philistines, a Hamitic people came from Caphtor(Gen.10: 14), probably a reference to ancient Crete. There are historians who trace them to ancient Anatolia. Whatever their origin, they were not Semitic and in no way synonymous with the Palestinians or Israeli Arabs of today. They settled the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea after a failed invasion of Egypt, prior to the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, and built the five Philistine cities: Gaza, Ekron, Gath, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The Israelites fought very many bitter wars with the Philistines who were uncircumcised and idol worshippers. It was in denigration of the Jews that the Romans referred the whole area as Palestine. The attempt to remove the vestiges of Jewish residence in the land of Israel is not new. Considering the socio-political settings at that time, this mystical woman, Israel was really in the pains of labour about to be delivered of her most important and illustrious Son, our Lord Jesus the Christ.
In verse three, we see another wonder in the heavens, a great red Dragon. This mystical figure is no other person than Satan, the current ruler of the world and the god of this age, the prince of this world, the prince of the power of the air(2 Cor. 4:4; Eph.2:2; Jon.14:30). He is indeed as described here a great red Dragon. I have done some battles with him. He is the supreme opposer of Israel and The church of Jesus The Christ. He has seven heads. The seven heads are the seven Beast Empires that have oppressed Israel throughout history.
These seven Beast Empires are: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medopersia, Greece, Rome and Nazi Germany. The seven crowns are the seven responsible rulers of these empires who have persecuted Israel. And there are ten horns. Horns symbolize power. The ten horns are ten rulers of the Eighth And Final Beast Empire Of Satan. This Eighth And Final Beast Empire is yet to be constituted. But the scripture is clear as to its composition. We shall delve into more details about this empire in our comments on the book of Revelation and a special look on it in our study of eschatology. The ruler of the Eighth Beast Empire, is one of the Seven rulers of the Seven Beasts Empires, who comes back to life to rule over the Eighth And Final Beast Empire. Hence the Seven heads of the Dragon instead of eighth heads. The Eighth head as it were, is one of the seven heads revived. It is indeed the revived seventh head.
Satan is a spirit being but not in the class of man or God; a former archangel named Lucifer, who through deceit usurped the authority that God gave Adam, the first man as his representative in the earthly realm of His Universal Kingdom. He does not have a physical body, so like God he cannot administer the Earth directly. He does so by proxy. He rules through his minions, human agents. To function in this physical world, a spirit being must possess a physical body, which acts as a transducer to enable it function in the external physical environment. We function here simply because we a have a physical body. When our earthly house of this physical body is dissolved, though we have a glorified eternal immortal but physical resurrection body in the afterlife, we can no longer function in this physical world. This is what is commonly referred to as death. Death is not the cessation of existence. It is a change of sphere.
Neither God, The Father, nor The Holy Spirit can rule directly here on Earth. They do so by proxy: in other words, they indwell people whom they empower to act on their behalf. Satan and his demonic hordes function in a similar manner. That is why Satan and his demons possess humans and animals as well as inanimate objects. Apart from the physical impossibility of Satan ruling here directly, he is a copycat and delights in mimicking God in every way possible. Remember when Satan revolted against God, he said: I will be like the Most High…., (Isaiah 14:14). Jesus can rule on the Earth directly because he has a physical body which enables Him to function in the external physical environment. But let me say here that His resurrection body is essentially different from our present mortal body, in that it is immortal, does not contain any blood, though consisting of flesh and bones, has the ability to materialize and dematerialize. We shall acquire this kind of glorified immortal body, unlimited, limitless and illimitable by external physical modalities like water, fire, walls, distance, etc. It shall possess some qualities of the spirit like ability to go through wall, fire, water, and ability to ascend and descend, upward and lateral and circular motions in space and immortality. No one can kill the spirit. It is eternal. Even God cannot destroy the spirit: He can only imprison it in Hell and the lake of fire. That is what is referred to as the second death, the first being physical death which is the separation of the material(Basar) from the immaterial parts(nephesh: spirit and soul) of man. This is the dual or dichotomous view of man which is the OT paradigm. The NT paradigm is trichotonous. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(1 Thess.5:23).
Let me say here that God and his angels have the ability to take up forms that are comparable to the human body and be visible to the optical eye of man for a limited period of time. Satan and his fallen angels have this ability too. Remember that Satan has not been totally divested of his powers as an archangel of God, the anointed cherub that covereth. Therefore he makes perverse use of these powers. Also demons have powers to incarnate(Gen. 6:1-4). Not everyone we see in this world is a human being. There are angels of God on assignment and there are humanized demons and demonized humans. These things fall into the subjects of angelology and demonology. The activities of familiar spirits are diverse, we shall not concern ourselves with them here.
In verse 4, we are taken back in time to the origin of the cosmic conflict when Lucifer rebelled against God and succeeded in seducing one-third of the angels of God to side with him in his rebellion against God. This is an enormous number of angels, considering the fact that God has an innumerable number of angels. “We have come unto Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, an into an innumerable company of angels”(Heb.12:22). It may well be that Daddy created more angels after the satanic rebellion inasmuch as one-third of infinity is infinity. Remember that this was before the creation of man. Following the rebellion, Satan and his hordes of fallen angels were cast out of the third heaven, or more precisely the heaven of heavens, which is the abode of God and His angels into the dark void. Contrary to what many teach, Satan’s abode at the moment is not in the pit of Hell but in the Dark Void. Satan dreads and abhors Hell, and is doing everything in his power to delay his being cast into Hell though inevitable.
The execution of the divine sentence on Satan and his angels is in four stages. First, they were cast of the Heaven of heavens into the dark void and starry heavens. Second, precisely in the middle of the 70th seven of Daniel, they shall be cast down to the Earth by archangel Michael and the angels of under his command(Rev.12:9). Thirdly, at the End Of The Ages, at Armageddon, he, Satan shall be cast into the bottomless pit which is also referred as the abyss. His angels shall be cast into Hell(Rev.20:2). At the end of the battle of Armageddon, the antiChrist and the false prophet, the first and second beast respectively shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Fourthly, at the end of the millennium, Satan and his fallen evil angels and Hell itself shall be cast into the lake of fire where the The Beast and The false prophet would been cast into a thousand years previously(Rev.20:10).
The dragon, Satan stood before this pregnant woman, Israel, gravid with a son. Satan was ready to devour this child as soon as He was born. How did he do this? We have established the fact that Satan rules the world by proxy. When Jesus The Messiah of The Jews and all mankind was born, His star appeared in the heavens. When the wise men from the East saw it, they came to worship Him. When they came to Jerusalem, they went to Herod the king to enquire: “where He was to be born, King of The Jews; for we have seen His star in the east, are come to worship Him?” When Herod had ascertained from Jewish scholars of biblical prophecy, he said to them: in Bethlehem of Judea. Go and worship Him, and when you are done, bring me word that I too may go and worship. He said this with tongue in his cheek; he was fearful of the loss of his throne, and wanted to kill Him. The star led them to where The Child was. They worshipped Him, and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they did not go back to Herod, but returned another way to their own country, having been instructed to do so by God. When Herod saw the magi had outwitted him, and rat it on him, he was enraged, and sent his soldiers to kill all male children in Bethlehem and its environs who were two years old and under(Matt.2:1-18). It could be that Rachel was one of the women who lost her children to the massacre by Herod’s soldiers inasmuch as it is a common name in Israel at that time, but it was more likely the mystical Mother, Israel; “Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to consoled because they were no more”(Jere. 1:15,Matt.2:18). That is how Satan operates, using men under his control. But we see that God had warned Joseph in a dream to escape to Egypt with The child and His mother and to remain there until the death of Herod.
In verse 5, the male child was born who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron(Psalm 2:9). He was caught up to heaven. Jesus finished His earthly ministry. He was crucified on the cross, he died and was buried. He descended into Hell, he led captivity captive and received gifts for men. He rose from the dead on the third day: for it was not possible for Him to be holden by the pangs of death(Acts 2: 24). Today, He is seated at the right hand of God, angels and authorities being made subject to Him(1 Pet. 3: 22). In a few sentences, Apostle John, the revelator described the first advent of Christ. If Satan had succeeded in snuffing out the life of the infant Jesus in the manger, could He had become the Saviour of all mankind? Certainly not: hence the need for God to preserve him until the time appointed of The Father for Him to atone for the Sin of all mankind on the Cross of Calvary. The birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and session of Jesus at the right hand of the throne of The Majesty in the heavens conclusively brought to an end the first Advent. We eagerly await the Second Advent.
Verse 5 ends with the resurrection and ascension and session of Jesus at the right hand of the Throne of The Father in The Heavens. Verse 6 transports us to the middle of the 70th Seven of Daniel, i.e., three and one-half years into the so called Tribulation Period. In chronological order, verse 7 precedes verse 6, because before Satan persecutes the Woman, he must have been cast down to Earth from his abode in the Dark void and starry heavens, the second heavens as it were, the first being the atmospheric heavens. The woman flees into the wilderness because The Great Tribulation has begun: it is the time of Jacob’s trouble(Jere.30:7). This wilderness is prepared of God to protect the woman from the Wrath of Satan which is kindled by his being thrust out of the heavens into the Earth. Many believers, biblical scholars and charismatic nuts alike believe this to be the red rose city of Petra, in modern Jordan. In Old Testament times it was called Sela. In NT times it was called Pella. I heard some charismatic nuts have hidden Bibles in cans in Petra hoping that some Jews fleeing from the great persecution by the antiChrist might find them to read during the Great Tribulation. This place of refuge for the woman is prepared to sustain her for a limited time of 42 months or three and one-half years. Biblical scholars are agreed that this period covers the second half of the 70th seven of Daniel rather the first half during which Israel is protected from assault until the antiChrist breaks his covenant in the midst of the 70th seven of Daniel’s 70 sevens prophecy(Dan.9:27). The prophet Isaiah refers to this covenant as “the covenant with death.” It is contracted with the antiChrist who is a messenger of death. The many from within Israel who support this covenant have no knowledge of its falsity. Therefore it shall be terror for them to understand it, when the antiChrist breaks it precisely in the midst of the week(Is.28:15-18).
Rev.12:7-12: The cosmic conflict: Michael defeats Satan and he is cast down to the Earth.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”(Rev.12:7-12).
As I pointed out in verse 6, in chronological order verse 7 precedes verse 6, for before the woman flees, she’s being pursued by the Dragon. And this is borne out by verse 13 which states that when the dragon saw that he was cast down to Earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the man child. As I appointed out earlier, the execution of God’s sentence against Satan and his fallen angels is in stages. In eternity past, when he rebelled against God prior to the creation of man, he was cast of the Heaven of heavens into the Dark Void and the Starry Heavens. Here, in the midst of the 70th seven, there is war in the heaven, archangel Michael and the angels of God under his command fought against Satan and his fallen evil angels. In this war in the heavenlies Satan was not passive: the dragon fought and his angels, but prevailed not. In other words, he was defeated. What do you expect ? Michael is God’s angel of war. In the dispute about the body of Moses, Michael defeated Satan by saying: “The Lord rebuke thee,” and he prevailed. Am persuaded he must have used the same tactics. This is a war of words. And in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Everything else is temporary, only the Word is eternal. The Word was before everything else, and when every other thing else is not, The Word abides. The word of God is a sword, the sword of the spirit. Jesus is the word of God. Therefore, He is the sword of God. No wonder therefore, in Rev.19, at the battle of Armageddon He appeared with a two edged sword in His mouth.
There are eighteen events that would occur precisely in the middle of the 70th Seven. We cannot enumerate them here without doing violence to the text. To help our understanding of this verse, let me point out a few of them. When Satan is defeated in the cosmic conflict by the archangel Michael, he is cast down to the Earth. He has Great Wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time, precisely three and one-half years and perhaps a few days before he is cast into the bottomless pit. As a spirit being without a physical body, he is invisible and rules by proxy. He possesses the antiChrist, like he possessed Judas, the man from Iscara, before he betrayed his master Jesus with a kiss(Jon.13:27). As soon as Satan possesses the antiChrist, he violates the covenant with the many from within Israel, invades the land of Israel and relocates his headquarters to the rebuilt Jewish Temple on The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The invasion of Israel by the Beast-antiChrist has been dubbed The Jerusalem Campaign by Robert van Kampen of blessed memory, and I subscribe to that. Our Lord Jesus prophesied: “when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh…….”(Luke21:20-24). “He shall plant the tabernacle of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him.”(Daniel 11:44). He sets up a statute of himself in the Holy of Holies of The Third Temple to be worshipped. He demands worship of all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles. This is the abomination that maketh desolate spoken by Daniel the prophet. The abomination of desolation is the antiMessiah himself and his image in the Holy of Holies of the temple. Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus The Christ said: “when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the Temple, let him that is Judea flee to the mountain”(Matt.24:15-22). This verse also supports the fact that the woman is Israel: “he that is Judea, let him flee to the mountains.” Who flees to the mountains? He who is in Judea. And who is in Judea? Israel, the woman. Robert van Kampen believes the Woman is synonymous with the 144,000, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, who were sealed in Rev.7. But am not dogmatic about that.
The antiChrist is a dead man who had ruled one of the 7 previous Beast Empires come back to life. It does appear his identity shall be hidden until the midst of the week when he makes his debut at the Third Temple. In other words, he shall travel incognito until unveiled at the midpoint of the 70th week of Daniel. At the midpoint of 70th week, the veil shall be removed. This man had a fatal wound with a sword and his fatal wound was healed. That the wound was fatal meant that the man died. That the fatal wound was healed meant that he came back to life. A dead man come back to life, who is able to make war with him? And every man takes to his heels(Rev.13:3).
Verse 10-11: The Devil is the accuser of brethren. Though cast out of the heaven of heavens, he still has access to the heavenly court to accuse believers. Now cast down to Earth from the dark void, he loses that right of access to the court of heaven to accuse the brethren. Therefore there is joy in heaven, hence the loud voice in heaven saying: “now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of God.” Because the accuser of the brethren is removed, barred access into the court of Heaven, the believers have enhanced status in the court of heaven. The effect of this heavenly scene, the eviction of Satan from the Dark Void and being barred access to the court of Heaven is evident on Earth where the the cosmic conflict has shifted. The believers overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they are ready to die for what they believe. This enhanced status does not add anything new to our salvation. We are “saved by grace, through faith”, and we are “the righteousness of God in Christ”, but an enablement to function better. And the effect is evident in the believers willingness to die for what they believe.
In verse 12, the dual effect of the withdrawal of access to the court of heaven from Satan is felt in the joy of the dwellers of heaven. On the other hand for the living earth-dwellers, the consequence is woe, for the wrath of Satan is kindled inasmuch as he knows that he has but a short time before he is cast into Hell which he dreads.
Verse13-17: The cosmic conflict shifts to Earth.
“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”(Rev.12:13-17).
Here we must distinguish the wrath of Satan from the wrath of God. Satan’s wrath is against humanity in general but more against those who fail to capitulate to his authority. I do not really know why, but I think because man was created to take his place and render praise and worship to God. Satan does not love anyone. Those who cooperate with him will face the wrath of God which is worse. He knows that. Those who do not cooperate with him he will kill. His strategy is destroy or disqualify. The great tribulation is the wrath of Satan. There will be unbelievers who will not cooperate with Satan’s minion, the antiChrist for ideological reasons. These people will face the wrath of Satan not because there are believers but because they are nonconformists.
As I pointed out earlier, the woman fleeing into the wilderness is subsequent to the Dragon being cast out of heaven and down to Earth, and exhibiting wrath against the woman who then flees. The Dragon’s wrath against the woman is primarily because she brought forth the man child. In verse 14, the woman is greatly helped of God who not only loans her the wings of great eagle to flee into her place, but also provided her nourishment for the period of her living incommunicado. The two wings of great eagle is a metaphor indicating the swiftness with which the woman flees. Much of her survival depends on the swiftness with which she flees. As soon as Jerusalem is surrounded by the forces of the antiChrist in the Jerusalem campaign in which he relocates his headquarters to Jerusalem, Israel have very little time to escape. Hence the need for divine assistance. This escape would be nothing short of the miraculous. If not for the finger of God, how would Israel survive the wrathful onslaught of Satan, the Dragon? The period of her living incommunicado is time, times, and half time which is three and one-half years, 42 months or 1,260 days which is the length of the second half of the 70th seven of Daniel’s. During this period, the woman is kept away from the presence of the serpent, that is Satan. God provides nourishment for the woman during this period of living in hiding in Petra for three and one-half years.
In verse 15, “the Serpent cast water out of his mouth as a flood, that he may cause her to be carried away of the flood.” In verse 16, “the Earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the Dragon cast out of his mouth.” Some biblical scholars believe this to be a literal flood which Satan brought about to swallow up the woman who is fleeing from the serpent. That may well be true, but I beg to differ. My thought here is that flood signifies a large army which the antiMessiah mobilized to catch up with the fleeing Jews just as Pharaoh did to the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt. The land of Israel is prone to earthquakes. It is probable that this large army is swallowed up by earthquake. Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters much what the flood is so long as Israel is protected from the machinations of the serpent. In verse 17, the Dragon sees his effort to get at the woman is fruitless, he turns his wrath on the remnant of her offspring who keep the commandment of God(observant Jews), and have the testimony of Jesus Christ(believers in Jesus the Christ) who did not escape into the wilderness. The killing of Jews and Christians in the land of Israel during the Great Tribulation will be outrageous. As we pointed out earlier, Satan loves no one, and his wrath is against all humanity. But we see here that he has a particular dislike for Jews and Christians, the two groups of people who remind him of utter failure to defeat the Almighty. Antisemitism and the killing of Christians all of the world are nothing new, but during the Great Tribulation, they know no bounds.