The Holy War.
Israel, Jesus Christ and Satan. v1 - 6.
1. "Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars."
Chapter twelve is the start of a new section of Revelation, the beginning of a new series of visions. In the first of these John sees portrayed events which have been, events which are to lead to "The Great Tribulation" or the time of Jacob's trouble in the future (Jer. 30:7; Matt. 24:15 - 22).
The first sign or wonder that appeared to him is of a woman clothed with glory, her feet standing on the moon and her head adorned with a crown of twelve stars. This vision represents the nation of Israel who were chosen by God as His own peculiar people for the purpose of fulfilling His plan of redemption (Deut. 14:2).
2. "Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth."
John saw her pregnant and about to give birth to her child.
3. "And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads."
Even before the birth takes place John sees another sign in heaven, a great fiery dragon, which is the Devil (Rev. 12: 9). He is described as having seven heads (expressing complete wickedness), each having a diadem (crown) and ten horns, representing worldwide rule. (Satan is called the god of this world 2 Cor. 4:10). In Rev. 13:1 the beast is described in the same way except that he has ten crowns on his horns, one for each horn, rather than seven crowns on each of his seven heads.
4. "His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born."
John saw the Devil in rebellion against God, dragging down one third of the angels, the stars of heaven, to the earth (Jude 1:6). It is likely that this happened before the creation of man. On earth, Satan stood before the woman waiting for her to give birth to her child so that he might destroy it (Matt. 2:13 & 16).
5. "She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne."
She gave birth to a male child destined to shepherd (proper meaning of rule), all nations with might and power (Ps. 2:7 - 9; Rev. 19:15), which is Jesus Christ. The vision glances over Christ's years of ministry, His crucifixion or resurrection and focuses immediately on His triumphant entry into heaven having defeated death and hell and having bruised Satan's head (Gen. 3:15). The vision illustrates that the Devil failed in his purpose to destroy Christ and that Christ had in fact defeated Satan.
6. "Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days."
The events of this verse do not immediately follow the ascension of Christ but refer to the time in the future when a defeated Devil, knowing his time is short, seeks to destroy the faithful in Israel. They flee from him to a place that God has prepared for them., where they are kept safe and provided for, for three and a half years (see verses 13 - 17). Some have taken this verse to refer to Mary and Joseph fleeing with Jesus into Egypt, but it is clear from verse five that the events depicted in verse six happen only after Christ's ascension. It should be noted that Jews, as well as Christians, have been persecuted at the instigation of Satan to this present day.
Satan Cast out of Heaven. v 7 - 9.
7. "And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,"
It is difficult to determine the time of the events of verses 7 -9. We must refer to other Scriptures in order to get a right perspective. According to Isaiah 14:12 - 15 Satan was cast down from Heaven when he attempted to take the throne of God, which must have happened before the Creation of man, for Satan was present in the Garden of Eden. Jesus Christ said that He had seen Satan fall from Heaven (Luke 10: 18). This would have been before He came from Heaven. In verse ten the Devil is referred to as the accuser of the saints who accuses them before God day and night. Job 1:9 -11 tells us that Satan came before God to accuse Job and in Zech. 3:1 he is seen standing by the Angel of the Lord to accuse Joshua the High Priest. We can conclude that Satan was cast of Heaven when he rebelled before the creation of man and it is no longer his dwelling place. He came down to earth when he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1). He is called the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2, Eph. 3:10) which suggests that he is in the heavens, not Heaven itself. Yet up until the time of Christ's ascension he was still able to come before the presence of God. The JFB commentary states that "when Christ ascended into heaven and became an advocate, Satan, the accusing adversary, could no longer appear before God against us, but was cast out judicially." (Col. 2:13 - 15, John 12:31).
The war breaking out in heaven could be understood to refer not to the time before creation when Satan was cast out of God's immediate presence, but to a war yet to be finally fought in the heavens, the air, where the Devil and his angels, the principalities and powers are at present. The archangel Michael leads his angelic host in this fight against the Devil and his angels. This war has special significance for Israel since Michael is referred to as the angel who protects Israel (Dan. 12:1). This war would then be seen as the immediate prelude to the Great Tribulation.
8. "but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer."
In the Name of the Lord, Michael defeated Satan and his forces. (Jude 1:9)
9. "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
The Devil for all time is cast down from the heavenly realms. He is defeated as the "prince and power of the air" and his angels with him. Hence to maintain his power over men it must be manifested on earth in a new and frightening way.
The Shout of Victory. v10 - 12.
10. "Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down."
Christ has once and for all defeated Satan at the cross of Calvary. Now comes a shout of victory as heaven rejoices that the time had come for God's salvation to be manifested by His power, that His Christ might begin to reign on earth. The first step in this was that the enemy who continually made accusations against God's people had been cast down and confined for now to the earth.
11. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."
Christ's people overcame the Devil by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ and the word of their testimony (1 John 2:14). They did not love their own lives but gave them up for Christ's sake.
12. "Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."
Because Satan has been cast down from the heavenlies and is confined to the earth, to the human sphere, all that are in heaven whether saints or angels are exhorted to rejoice. But for those who live on the earth and the sea, misery and suffering is about to begin for the Devil, infuriated by his defeat and the prospect of his impending doom will vent his great anger on mankind.
The Great Tribulation. v13 - 17.
13. "Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child."
When the Devil realizes that he has been thrown down from the heavenlies and confined to the earth he will try to destroy all the faithful Jews. He cannot defeat Christ, but would seek his revenge against the nation who brought Christ forth. This is the time of great tribulation which Jesus referred to in Matt. 24:15 - 22.
14. "But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent."
God miraculously aids the Jews in escaping from Satan and takes them to a secure place in the wilderness where He provides for them for three and a half years.
Note: "two wings of a great eagle" denote the intervention of God Himself. In Exodus 19:4 the LORD declares concerning His deliverance of Israel from the Egyptians 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.'
15, 16. "So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth."
As Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, so the Devil pursues these faithful Jews. In Moses' time the Israelites were stopped by the Red Sea until God parted it for them to pass over. On this occasion the Devil causes a mighty river to flood so that it would drown these Jews, but God causes an earthquake to open the ground and swallow up the river, thus ensuring their escape.
Note: Some commentators suppose that this incident alludes to a nation or nations coming to rescue Israel from its enemies. This does not bear up to scrutiny, for although there are nations who are Israel's allies at the present time, at the time of Great Tribulation all nations will be under the control of Anti-Christ. At that time, only God will protect Israel, according to His promise.
17. "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Since Satan cannot get to these faithful Jews who have escaped he becomes even more enraged with Israel and now turns his attention on those who did not flee. Who are these Jews who flee from the Devil and those who remain? We are not sure, but since they are faithful to God's Word and have the witness of Jesus we suggest that they belong to the 144,000 sealed by God in Rev. 7:4.
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