Revelation Chapter 12: the red dragon (Satan/the devil/the serpent) versus Israel and Israel’s spiritual "seed," the Followers of the Messiah, throughout history
Chapters 12-14 are parenthetical chapters inserted between the sounding of the seventh trumpet (11:15) and the description of the bowls of wrath events (Chapters 15-16) to give us some background information about Satan’s antagonism toward the Lord Yehovah’s People and His coming Messiah and to fill in more details of what happens during the Great Tribulation (the wrath of Satan) of the second half of the Final Seven Years.
By combining images from the past, present, and future, Chapter 12 provides more details about what is happening behind the scenes with Satan vis-à-vis the Messiah and Yehovah’s people Israel and the followers of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). The imagery in this chapter does not appear to be strictly sequential or time-specific: The events manifest a pattern of conflict between the devil and Israel, including her spiritual Children the Followers of the Messiah, throughout history, beginning with Pharoah's army pursuing the children of Israel out of Egypt and culminating with the army of Satan, led by his incarnation Antimessiah, pursuing them into the "wilderness" at the midpoint of the Final Seven Years, then persecuting Israel's spiritual "seed," the Followers of the Messiah Yeshua ("Christ Jesus") after that, until the end of the seven years.
12:1-2 Now (a) a great sign appeared in heaven: (b) a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being (c) with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
a. “Sign” means symbolic - not an actual person, object, or event. Its appearance in Heaven rather than on the earth indicates that it transcends time and space; it is not specific to a single person, object, or event at a certain point in time on the earth.
b. Thankfully, we are not left to the mercy of the fickleness and frailty of men’s imaginations in interpreting the Bible. Scripture is its own best interpreter. Other passages of Scripture tell us very clearly what or who the sun, moon, and stars represent. In Joseph’s dream (Genesis 37:9), which was very similar to the vision of 12:1, he dreamed that the sun (Jacob), the moon (Rachel) and eleven stars (Joseph’s brothers) were bowing down to him, the twelfth star. So, the sun, moon, and stars represent the family of Israel in Joseph’s vision. Why could they not represent the same in John’s vision? Most of the early Disciples of Yeshua, including the apostles, were Jewish Believers. They would have immediately understood the symbolism. The woman is Israel. So, those of Israel who truly believe in the coming Messiah, even though they did not recognize Him the first time He came, the ones to whom Paul refers as true Israel (cf. Romans 9:6), are symbolized in John’s vision as the woman. And in 12:1, this woman - clothed with the sun, moon, and stars - appears in Heaven, indicating that the imagery in this chapter is not bound by time and is not in strict chronological sequence, but represents the timeless plan of Yehovah, which originates in Heaven.
c. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Who else could this child of Israel be other than Yeshua the Son, the Messiah, the focus of the Revelation? In an extended sense, His birth might refer to His second coming as Head of the Kingdom of Elohiym (God) on Earth, because the Final Seven Years are prophesied to be a time of great travail and pain, referred to as “the time that she [Israel] who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His [the Messiah’s] brethren shall return to the children of Israel." During the Final Seven Years, a remnant of the tribes of Israel scattered throughout the world will return to the Land of Israel and be reunited with the Jews who are already there. Then, the Messiah will return to rule them from David’s throne in New Jerusalem during His millennial reign on Earth. (cf. Micah 5:2-3; Isaiah 9:7)
12:3-4 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, (a) a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew (b) a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And (c) the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
a. This is Satan, the devil, the “serpent of old” (cf. verse 9; 17:3; 20:2). As will be clarified in Chapters 13 and 17, “heads” is synonymous with “mountains” - worldly kingdoms or empires; “horns” refers to worldly authority or power; and “diadems” (crowns) refers to the kings or rulers who wield that authority over the kingdoms of the world. Satan is, at the present time, the source and sustainer of the authority and power of the kings of the world - the one who controls those kings and, in effect, rules the world from behind the scenes (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
b. These are Satan’s angels (cf. verse 9).
c. Satan, through Herod, attempted to kill Yeshua soon after He was born (cf. Matthew 2:8; 16-18). He also attempted to kill him at various times during his ministry on Earth and at His crucifixion. He will attempt to kill him again at "Armageddon," and finally at the end of the Millennium. Some mistranslate and over-allegorize “Child” into “Children” (the Christian Church), but a good principle to follow in interpreting Scripture is that symbolism does not violate common sense or correct grammar.
12:5-6 (a) She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to [Yehovah] and His throne. (b) Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by [Yehovah], that (c) they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
a. But Israel, through Mary, a descendant of David (cf. Luke 3:23-31), bore the Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron (cf. Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:9; Revelation 19:15).6 And He escaped being destroyed by Satan when He ascended into Heaven (cf. Acts 1:11). Again, this confirms that the male child (called by many the manchild) is the literal Son of Yehovah, not the "Church" (cf. the commentary on 2:26-28), as many in the pseudo-Christian (anti-Christian) Manifested Sons of God or New Apostolic Movement teach.
b. Then, when he failed to destroy the Son of Yehovah, the devil went after His mother Israel who fled into the "wilderness" (the Gentile nations or rural, sparsely inhabited areas, depending on the context). Actually, in anticipation of the coming Messiah, Satan has been trying to destroy Israel throughout her history: when she came out of Egypt, by the Assyrian destruction and dispersion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, by the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity and dispersion of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, by Antiochus Epiphanes, by the Roman persecutions and dispersion, by the Russian pogroms, by the German Holocaust, and by worldwide anti-Semitism today. If he can destroy Israel, then he will prevent the Messiah from “giving birth” through her to the redeemed nation of Israel (cf. Mark 13:8 where “beginnings of sorrows” is a Hebrew expression meaning the “beginnings of birth pangs”) when He returns to rule over her from David’s throne in New Jerusalem. So, Satan will attempt to destroy Yehovah’s physical people Israel when his incarnation, Antimessiah, pursues her into the wilderness at the midpoint of the Final Seven Years.
c. But she will escape and “they” will feed her the last half of the seven years (1260 days). Who “they” are is not clear—perhaps the angels who ministered to Yeshua after His 40 days in the wilderness (cf. Matthew 4:11), or Jordanian Arabs who the Bible indicates will aid Israel after she flees into the wilderness (e.g., Isaiah 16:3-4). Although this imagery may have multiple references, including Yehovah’s taking care of Israel in the Sinai wilderness after her exodus from Egypt and His taking care of her in the “wilderness” (the Gentile nations) of the world today, before the Remnant returns to Israel, it will have a literal fulfillment during the Final Seven Years when the Jews in Jerusalem and that area who recognize that Antimessiah is the false messiah flee into hiding places in the mountains of "Judea" (Central Israel) at the midpoint of the Final Seven Years when he stands in the Temple proclaiming himself to be "God" (cf. Daniel 11:37; Matthew 24:15-20; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Interestingly, days, years and millennia are used interchangeably in Scripture (e.g., "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”—2 Peter 3:8) and must be interpreted according to the context. And it has been close to three and one-half millennia (3,500 years) since the army of Pharaoh pursued the children of Israel out of Egypt. Israel’s time in the “wilderness” of the world (the Gentile nations) will end very soon.
12:7-17 And war broke out in heaven: (a) Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 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. Then I heard (b) a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His [Messiah] have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 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. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to (c) 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." Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, (d) he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 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. So (e) 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 (f) the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And (g) the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of [Yehovah] and have the testimony of [Yeshua the Messiah]. (h)
Verses 7-17 appear to repeat the content of verses 1-6, the pursuit of Israel's physical children into the wilderness, but focuses especially on that persecution during the last half of the Final Seven Years, and culminates with what will happen to Israel’s spiritual children the Followers of the Messiah Yeshua during the Great Tribulation.
a. Although Satan, when he was Lucifer, was expelled from Heaven before he appeared as the serpent in the Garden of Eden (cf. Isaiah 14:12; Genesis 3:1), he still seems to be able to come, with his angels, into the presence of Yehovah. But apparently, during the Final Seven Years, he and his angels will be permanently cast out of Heaven.
b. The devil’s ejection from Heaven prompts rejoicing by the Redeemed in Heaven (notice that it is just a voice that John hears; there is no indication that the Redeemed are in their final, glorified bodies - cf. Revelation 6:9-10), because he can no longer accuse their brethren, especially the martyrs, before Yehovah. It is by virtue of the sacrifice of the Lamb of Yehovah and their faithful testimony to the Truth that Yeshua is the true Messiah and salvation is only through Him, even to the point of sacrificing their own lives, that the brethren are able to overcome the constant accusations of Satan, resulting in his being cast out of Heaven.
c. But woe to the inhabitants of both Israel and the Gentile world (cf. the commentary on 10:2-7b) because the devil, full of desperate wrath because he knows that his time is short, will be a total tyrant in attempting to establish his dominion on the earth. And this will be the time of "great tribulation" worse than at any other time in history, foretold by Yeshua (Matthew 24:21).
d. This verse appears to reiterate verse six in which Satan tries to destroy the Jews, who, specially enabled by Yehovah, flee into the mountains of central Israel at the midpoint of the Final Seven Years and are protected and nourished there for “a time and times and half a time,” three and one-half years. The majority of the Jews in Jerusalem will probably not escape, however, and will be subjected to harsh servitude by Satan’s incarnation, Antimessiah, just as the Israelites were oppressed in Egypt by Pharaoh.
e. Then, Satan’s last attempt to destroy Yehovah’s physical people Israel before their Messiah takes back His throne on Earth will be when the anti-messiah pursues those remaining in Jerusalem into the wilderness at the end of the Final Seven Years, when the Messiah returns with the armies of Heaven to destroy the forces of Antimessiah and the kings of the earth. His feet will land on the Mount of Olives which will split, half of it moving to the south and half moving to the north, creating a valley that runs from Jerusalem to the north end of the Dead Sea (Azal). And that valley will provide a way of escape for the Jews through the mountains east of Jerusalem, just as the “valley” through the sea provided a way of escape for the Israelites fleeing from Egypt (cf. Zechariah 14:3-5).
f. And, just as the valley through the sea became a death trap for Pharaoh’s army pursuing the children of Israel (Exodus 15:2), a crevasse (caused by an earthquake) will open in the valley created for the Israelites’ escape from Jerusalem and “swallow up” Antimessiah’s army (“flood”) pursuing them.
g. Now, the scope of John’s vision broadens to include the whole earth. Satan’s failure to destroy the Jews enrages him that much more, so he goes off to destroy “the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of [Yehovah] and have the testimony of [Yeshua the Messiah].” These spiritual offspring of Israel are the redeemed Believers in Yeshua (cf. John 14:21). They are the seed of Abraham by grace through faith (cf. Romans 4:16; 1 John 2:3; Revelation 1:9; 19:10), who are not exempt from the Great Tribulation, but whom the Lord “catches up” to Heaven before the final plagues of His Wrath (the plagues of the seventh trumpet/bowl judgments) fall on the earth dwellers.
And, in time sequence, that brings us to Chapter 13.
6Matthew 1:16, in stating that Joseph was Mary’s husband, is an error in translation. Recently-discovered Hebrew manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew state that Joseph (a Joseph other than Mary’s husband) was her father. The genealogy of Mary’s husband Joseph is listed in Luke 3, where he is listed as a descendant of David through David's son Nathan. So, as was prophesied, Yeshua was a descendant of the kingly line of David and Solomon through only one human parent, His mother (cf. Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14). For a complete explanation of the genealogy of Yeshua, get the DVD Raiders of the Lost Book at www.michaelrood.tv, view the YouTube videos by the same name, or read Rood's explanation in his book, The Chronological Gospels, available through Amazon.
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