This is one of the great prophetic chapters of the Bible. An understanding of its contents is essential to the correct interpretation of prophecy. Only a small part of the chapter fits into the sequence of events during the Tribulation. The chapter is really an inset providing the necessary information about the past, present, and future events concerning Christ, Israel and Satan. Chapter 12 reveals “the conflict of the ages.” This conflict involves Israel, Christ and Satan. There are four great passages brought to our attention in the chapter: (1) The Woman [Rev. 12:1-2], (2) The Great Red Dragon [Rev. 12:3-4], (3) The Man-Child [Rev. 12:5-6], and (4) Michael, the Archangel [Rev. 12:7-12]. It will be our purpose here to look at each of these more closely.
The Woman (Rev. 12:1-2)
There appeared a great “sign” in heaven. The appearance of this woman is a sign or symbol of an important truth. It is a miraculous signpost. Who is this woman? [Describe her at this point]
The Bible is its own best interpretation. In Genesis 37, at 17 years old, Joseph had a dream. He dreamt that the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. His family understood the dream and resented it, for it referred to his father (Jacob), mother (Rachel), and eleven brothers bowing down to him. Joseph’s dreams came true. They bowed down before him three times with their faces to the ground. The woman John saw here in Rev. 12 is clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and crowned with a crown of twelve stars. This identifies her as the nation of Israel, the descendants of Jacob and Rachel.
Rev. 12:2 describes Israel as travailing in pain, awaiting the birth of her child. This child was to rule with a rod of iron (The Millennium) - The child is Christ. The words, “being,” “travailing,” and “pained” are in the present tense, emphasizing continuous action. So then, the picture here is of Israel, as a nation, continually travailing in birth, longing for the coming of the promised Messiah.
The Great Red Dragon (Rev. 12:3-4)
The second sign appeared in heaven. It was a great red dragon with 7 crowned heads and 10 horns. Its tail drew 1/3 of the stars behind it and cast them to the earth. It stood before the woman; ready to devour the child she would bear. The dragon can be easily identified (See Rev. 12:9). It is “red” in color; this undoubtedly emphasizes all the blood that he has spilled (the Christian martyrs and the Covenanters). The number of his heads undoubtedly identifies him with the revived Roman Empire. In Rev. 12:4, we see that “His tail drew 1/3 of the stars and he cast them to the earth.” This seems to describe the fall of Satan. When he fell, he took 1/3 of the angels with him.
Read Isaiah 14:12-17. Note the phrase “I will” repeated five times, paying particular attention to the final one: (1) I will ascend unto heaven, (2) I will exalt my throne above the angels of God, (3) I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, (4) I will ascend above the clouds, and (5) I will be like the most High. Pride brought his downfall and 1/3 of the angels fell with him (fallen angels – evil spirits).
The next thing we are told is that “the dragon stood before the woman to devour the child she would deliver.” Satan has a special hatred for the woman and her child. The attitude of Satan portrays his desire to both prevent the birth and destroy Him after He is born. The child mentioned here is the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan was waiting for Christ to be born, so that he might kill Him. This has been the conflict of the ages. Satan knows that he must destroy Christ or be destroyed himself. As Christ was promised through Israel, the fury of Satan has been directed at them before and after Christ’s birth.
The conflict began in Eden. There was enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent. The woman’s seed will bruise the head of the serpent; it will bruise the heel of the Lord (bruised at Calvary, crushed after the Millennium). A review of the O.T. shows that Satan was busy, seeking to destroy the royal seed. Read Ex. 1:16. The Egyptian midwives were instructed, “If it be a son, then you shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.” Saul tried to kill David – the royal line. In the book of Esther, Haman wanted to destroy the Israelites. Haman was the tool of Satan.
Furthermore, when Jesus was born, see how Satan tried to kill Him: through King Herod, by tempting Him for 40 days, through the people of Nazareth (they would have thrown Him over the precipice - they were the Devil’s tools), by the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and by the demon possessed man. The last great effort of Satan to destroy Christ was when he had Him crucified, but it was “through death” that the Lord Jesus destroyed Him who had the power of death, that is the devil. Satan later attempted to keep Jesus in the tomb. He had the tomb sealed and guarded. But despite all this, Christ arose. He has ascended—is crowned with glory and honor, and is coming again. Jesus Christ is now seated at the Father’s right hand.
The Man-Child (Rev. 12:5-6)
In Rev. 12:5, we read that this woman brought forth a male child (Christ). He will rule over all nations with a rod of iron. He ascended 40 days after His resurrection; He was caught up unto God. He now sits on His throne. He is coming again. He will reign as supreme - Lord over all the earth. In this verse our attention is directed to the male child, whom we believe to be Jesus Christ. The predictions concerning Him were: (1) He would/will rule all nations with a rod of iron (the Millennium), (2) He was caught up to God and to His throne (He sits at the right hand of the Father), and (3) His world rule will take place after the tribulation.
In Rev. 12:6, the woman, having given birth to the male child, “fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days.” [42 months or 3½ years] Between verses 5 and 6, there is a great time lapse. Verse 5 ends with the ascension of Christ. Verse 6 describes Israel fleeing from the presence of the Antichrist, during the Tribulation. This is already a difference of nearly 2,000 years.
After the Church began, Israel was temporarily set aside. Paul says in Rom. 11:25 that, “blindness, in part, is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” The events in this chapter take place when God is again dealing with Israel. Notice that Israel fled into the wilderness. God took care of her. She was there for 3½ years. The one who pressured Israel into the wilderness was the dragon. He is-has been-and always will be relentless in his presentation of this nation.
Previously, we described some of the many attempts of Satan to destroy the nation and the Lord, up to the time of Christ (Describe A.D. 70). Think also of what happened in Germany in our own generation. All this will fade in significance during the tribulation when Satan will try to exterminate the Jewish race (the final scene of Armageddon).
Michael, the Archangel (Rev. 12:7-12)
War in Heaven - Read Rev. 12:7, “and there was war in heaven.” This war was between Michael, with the unfallen angels, and the dragon, with the fallen angels. Satan and his angels will be defeated, cast out of heaven and thrown down to earth. The events of this verse will most likely take place approximately during the middle of the tribulation. When Satan and his minions reach earth, the first thing they will do is incite the king of the South and the king of the North to attack Israel. See Rev. 6. The result of this will be that ¼ of the world’s population will perish. Furthermore, the rest, who were not killed, repented not and continued to worship demons and idols; they continued to murder, use drugs, live immorally, and steal.
The reason for this upsurge of wickedness is found in Rev. 12:12, “Woe unto the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.” The awful picture presented here is that of Satan and his angels cast out of heaven; the aerial cast out of the stormy heavens and the atmospheric heaven to earth where they will possess people, torment them and seek to destroy them. See Rev. 9 (The locusts from hell).
We are introduced to Michael here. He is referred to in other scriptures as the “archangel.” He seems to be divinely commissioned to be the guardian of Israel. Previously, Michael had a confrontation with Satan over the body of Moses. At that time Michael would not oppose him personally, but said, The Lord rebuke you.” Now, in the middle of the tribulation, the time has come for Michael, with God’s help, to cast him out of heaven.
In Rev. 12:9, four names are given to the evil one: (1) The great dragon: This denotes his strength and power, (2) That old serpent: This takes us back to the Garden of Eden. It was here he appeared to Eve in this form, (3) The Devil: This means slanders. He accuses the brethren. Compare Christ as our Advocate here, and (4) Satan: This name means adversary (roaming lion and angel of light). This describes the person who was cast out of heaven to earth.
John says one thing more about him here; it is he “Who deceiveth the whole world.” There will come a time in the future when Satan will control the minds, life and actions of the world. It is much more important for us to recognize the power of Satan today. The Christian’s refuge is the armor of God. See Eph. 6. 2 Cor. 4:3-4 reads, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 1 John 5:19 says “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” To illustrate this point, describe “the wages of sin” and “the gift of God.”
When Satan is cast out of heaven in Rev. 12:10-12, there is great rejoicing in heaven. There is also a great “Woe” upon earth – The devil is angry and he knows that his end is near.