CHAPTER TWELVE - THE BEGINNING
(1) And (2) the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and (3) the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and (4) there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.
1. The placement of Revelation 11:19 has caused no little debate. Is it the summary of chapter 11 or the introduction of chapter 12? Or is it a transition from chapter 11 to chapter 12? The reader must keep in mind that the chapter divisions are contrived by men. Therefore, discretion is in order. The key to understanding the placement of this verse is the reference to the temple and the ark. Both symbolize the manifest presence of God among His people.
2. The temple of God which is in heaven was opened = indicates that God has come forth from His dwelling-place. An opened door indicates either entrance or exit. Here it indicates exit. With the reversion of earth to God’s direct rule, He will destroy those who have ruined the people of the earth. Future wrath (the bowls) will be executed from the temple of God.
3. The ark of His covenant appeared in His temple = indicates the localized presence of God. Where the ark is, there either is blessings or curses (1 Sam 5-6). God is about to pour out curses upon the wicked earth-dwellers.
4. There were flashes…hailstorm = indicates the imminent outbreak of God’s wrath. At each point, just prior to the outpouring of God’s wrath, there are heavenly disturbances to indicate the outbreak of God’s wrath (Rev 6:12-17; 8:1-5; 11:19). Some are tempted because of this recurring pattern to see recapitulation throughout the Revelation. They see an overlap between, the seals, trumpets and bowls. However, this conclusion is simplistic and is built upon an exaggeration of textual generalities to the exclusion of textual details. The trumpets and the bowls do have common straits, but the differences are major.
(1) A great sign appeared in heaven: (2) a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under here feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and (3) she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
1. A great sign appeared in heaven = is problematic. First, no grammatical connection is indicated between verse one and Revelation 11:19. Second, John does not identify the literal referent of the woman who is described in symbolical language.
The relationship between Revelation 11:19 and 12:1 is a logical one. Having been instructed to prophesy against "many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings," John gives three reasons for God’s prophetic program against the living wicked earth-dwellers (peoples, nations, and tongues). First, they dishonored his house of worship. Second, they abused His holy city. The third reason involves the persecution of the righteous by the wicked. The fourth reason John must prophesy again concerns the kings. Thus, in Revelation 12-13, the prophecy turns against the kings. John will focus on the kings who led the nations against the interests of God. The living wicked earth-dwellers refused to worship God, but chose to worship the Dragon and his beast-king who are God’s temporal enemies. The final outbreak of God’s wrath is justified against the living wicked earth-dwellers and their kings because they are guilty.
In true apocalyptic fashion, John does not state any details explicitly that would give the wicked grounds to further persecute the people of God. Given the outcome, it would not be wise to trumpet too loudly the ultimate victory of the righteous over the wicked. Apocalyptic literature allows the prophet of God to trumpet loudly the ultimate victory of God and His people in a way that the wicked miss the obvious. Therefore, the woman and the child will not be explicitly identified. However, those who know Scripture will find the correct interpretation, easily.
A great sign signals a requirement for the reader to put on special glasses to see beyond the apocalyptic language. The literal event depicted is not the theologically significant event intended. The sign has deeper significance. There are three signs: (1) the woman who gives birth to a special child (Rev 12:1-2); (2) the Dragon who seeks to destroy the special child at birth (Rev 12:3-13:18); and (3) the seven angels who destroy the Dragon and his kingdoms (Rev 15-19).
The verb appeared is often used in the Old Testament to introduce an appearance of God (Gen 12:7); an appearance of an angel (Exod 3:2); and a prophetic vision (Dan 8:1). All three events are depicted in Revelation 12-20. First, a prophetic vision is given of a woman who bears a special child who will rule the nations (Rev 12:1-2). Then an angelic being is introduced who seeks to devour the special child to prevent his rule over the earth (Rev 12:3-13:18). Finally, God appears to put down the rebellion of the Dragon (Rev 15-20).
2. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars = identifies what the first great sign is. The identity of the woman is not explicitly stated, which is consistent with the nature of apocalyptic genre. However, John gives more than enough information to make her identity known.
First, the woman has cosmic significance. She is clothed with the sun. She stands upon the moon. She wears a crown of twelve stars. Genesis 37:9-10 records that Joseph had a dream similar to the first vision of Revelation 12. The dream indicated that "the sun (Jacob) and the moon (Rachel) and eleven stars (Joseph’s brothers) were bowing down" to Joseph. Jacob the father of Joseph states, "What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?" The woman is exalted among the sun, moon and stars.
Second, the woman gives birth to a significant child. A child "who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron." This is a direct allusion to Psalms 2:9, which indicates that this child is a king, a Son of God. Third, God divinely protects the woman for three and a half years from the Dragon. These three facts make the woman’s identity clear. She can be none other than the unsaved remnant of Jews divinely elected by God to survive the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
Israel (the nation) is clearly not all divinely protected during the time of distress (Rev 7:1-8; Dan 12:1). Therefore, "the woman" cannot be every single member of the twelve tribes of Israel. Messianic Jews will be taken in the Rapture and will not need divine protection for three and a half years. Similarly, messianic Jews (in the historical sense) did not exist before the birth of Christ. Therefore, they could not have given birth to the Son. That leaves the unsaved remnant of Jews present in every generation. Depending on the emphasis, a list of the twelve tribes of Israel may or may not contain Levi, Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim. Thus, the twelve stars on the woman’s head represent the twelve original tribes, minus Manasseh and Ephraim. The moon is Rachel, the mother of Judah who anchors the family as Jacob’s first wife. The sun is Jacob who covers the twelve tribes.
The remnant of Israel is that elect group of Jews who experience God’s mercy in every generation. Thus, the remnant is the woman who ultimately gave birth to the Son who will rule the world as prophesied by Jacob in Genesis 49:9.
3. She was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth = bring us to the point of delivery. Conception and pregnancy is not in focus. This indicates that the author’s interest in this story is summary in fashion.
(1) Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, (2) a great red dragon (3) having seven heads and ten horns, and (4) on his heads were seven diadems.
1. Then another sign appeared in heaven = is the second of three great signs that provide the structure of Revelation 12-19. This sign features the antagonist—the composite dragon (seven satanically inspired kingdoms and ten kings) whose primary agenda will be the prevention of the temporal reign of the Son.
2. A great red dragon = is the focus of this second sign. Unlike the woman and the child who will remain without explicit identification. The great red dragon will be specifically identified. The Greek term drakon can be used to translate two Hebrew words. The first is the Hebrew word for Leviathan (Job 40:25) and the second is sea-monster (Exod 7:9-12). However, the context is clear that a literal monster is not intended. Rather, the great red dragon represents hostile kings and kingdoms that seek to prevent the rule of the woman’s Son on earth. This is a composite dragon (seven kingdoms and ten kings) versus the dragon (Satan).
What does the great red dragon represent?
The great red dragon from heaven (Rev 12:3), the beast from the sea (Rev 13:1), and the scarlet beast (Rev 17:3) are described as having "heads, horns, and crowns." However, there are differences between the great red dragon, the beast, and the scarlet beast:
Seven heads / ten horns / seven crowns
Swept away 1/3 of the stars
Stood before Woman to devour child
Beast from the
Arises out of
Seven heads / ten horns / ten crowns
Like leopard / bear / lion
A blasphemous name
Dragon (Satan) empowers
One head fatally wounded
Head wound healed
World worships the beast
Speaks great things / blasphemies
Continues 42 months
Persecutes with the Saints
Has authority over the earth
The world worships him
666 is the number of his name
Beast from the
Arises out of the bottomless pit
Seven heads / ten horns
Names of blasphemy
Carrying the great harlot
Seven heads / mountains / kings
Five kings fallen
One is yet to come
Beast is of the seven kings
Beast receives the kingdom
The world marvels at him.
Each is presented as both a composite and a singular entity. Revelation 12 is confusing because the great red dragon from heaven is the personification of the dragon (Satan). The relationship between the two is such that to speak of one is to speak of the other.
3. Having seven heads and ten horns = is the specific composition of the great red dragon. Daniel 7 is helpful at this point concerning the interpretation of the heads and horns. It must be kept in mind that John is describing the composite dragon here.
Daniel indicates that a beast with ten horns would figure prominently in the eschatological end when the Son of Man comes. In Daniel 7, the ten horns represent ten kings (Dan 7:24) who rule at the same time. In Daniel 7, a beast can represent a kingdom or the king that rules over that kingdom. A horn can represent a king (Dan 7:24) or a kingdom (Dan 8:22). John sees a dragon with seven heads. The heads represent kingdoms. The composite red dragon also has ten horns. In both Daniel and the Revelation, horns can represent kings or the authority of kings. However, with regards to the composite dragon, the horns represent kings without kingdoms. This is why unlike the ten horns of the beast from the sea the ten horns of the dragon do not have crowns.
4. On his heads were seven diadems = indicates the authority of royalty. The composite dragon has seven heads because seven kingdoms had the primary satanically inspired intent to prevent the temporal reign of the Son. It is critical that the readers recognize this important detail. There are only seven kingdoms that constitute the satanically inspired conspiracy to destroy the Man-Child. All seven existed before the birth of the Child. Once the Child is born and caught up to heaven, the strategy to destroy Him at birth ends. The seven kingdoms of the composite dragon are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Greece and Rome.
The composite dragon pictures Satan’s attempt to prevent the reign of the Son by using seven beast kingdoms: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Midia, Persia, Greece and Rome. Each of these empires ruled the entire known world. Behind their world dominance was Satan with his agenda to prevent the temporal reign of the Son.
(1) And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and (2) threw them to the earth. (3) And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, (4) so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
1. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven = suggests a very powerful dragon. Continuing his figurative description of the composite great red dragon, John indicates that the dragon caused a third of the stars of heaven to be thrown down to earth. This suggests a supernatural element to this beast. Who or what the stars are is not explicitly defined.
2. Threw them to the earth = has been interpreted by some to suggest that this refers to the fall of Satan and one-third of the angelic host. However, this conclusion is not supported by the text.
3. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth = focuses the primary objective of the composite great red dragon. Given that the child is caught up to heaven, we are safe to assume that the composite dragon is standing on the earth.
4. So that when she gave birth he might devour her child = indicates the purpose of the composite great red dragon’s actions. Why the dragon seeks the death of the child is not indicated yet. There is clearly more to this story than is told because the dragon, as such, could devour both the child and the mother. Why must he wait until the child is born? It is important to understand that the composite great red dragon exists before the birth of the child. The heads must wait for the birth of the child before they can destroy it.
Each dragon inspired empire attempted to destroy the Male-Son. This satanically inspired strategy dates back to the very beginning of Scripture. Genesis 3:15 indicates a struggle between the serpent and the woman. The woman’s seed eventually will crush the head of the serpent. To prevent the seed from His ordained destiny, the serpent has attempt to destroy the seed/Male-Son.
(1) And she gave birth to a son, a male, (2) who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and (3) her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
1. And she gave birth to a son, a male child = is interesting. The text says literally, a male son, which appears redundant and unnecessary. One cannot have a son without it being a male. The point seems to be that this is a special son.
2. Who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron = gives the purpose of this special child. That the composite great red dragon seeks to kill the child has already alerted the reader that this child is special. The indication that this child "is to rule the nations" explains why this child is the object of the dragon’s attention. All authority will be subject to this child and those who resist will meet destruction. The nations seek to prevent the Son from reigning over the earth by killing him at birth.
This child will rule the all nations with a rod of iron. This is an allusion to Psalms 2:9. This is the second allusion to this passage in the Revelation. The first occurred in Revelation 2:27. There, overcomers are promised the authority to rule over the nations. The One making the promise is The Son of God. To rule with a rod of iron represents a strict demand of obedience. This ruler will not allow any rebellious or disobedience on the part of His kingdom constituents.
All the nations as a biblical phrase has a long history throughout Scripture. It appears more than sixty times in the Old Testament. It occurs five times in the Revelation (12:5; 14:8; 15:4; 18:3, 23). The phrase may or may not include the Jews, but it always represents all the Gentiles nations of the known world. These nations will be under the control of the Son. This explains why the composite dragon satanically inspired by the dragon (Satan) will seek to keep the Son from His destiny. This Son will replace the dragon as king of the earth and will demand the submission of all earthly authority to Himself.
3. Her child was caught up to God and to His throne = explains how the child escaped the death trap of the composite great red dragon. The "was caught up" is the same verb used to describe what will happen to the "dead in Christ" and those living when He comes in the air (1Thess 4:16). Since the great red dragon was in wait to kill the Son, the language communicates urgency—to snatch away. The fact that this child is caught up to God and to His throne heightens the significance of the child. God’s throne throughout the Revelation indications the place of absolute power and authority. It is the central focus in heaven.
Some argue that this text should only be applied to Jesus in a secondary sense, since Jesus did in fact die on earth. The fact that this child is caught up to heaven (presumably) immediately after birth argues against a primary application to Christ, some would say. However, John is not given a strictly literal interpretation of the events connected with the birth, ministry and death of Christ. Rather, he is focusing on the satanic system that culminates in the eschaton with the worst persecution of God’s people the world will ever know, which justifies God’s wrath that follows.
Some would reject the interpretation that a time gap exists between Revelation 12:5 and 6. They do so at the expense of a literal face value interpretation of the text. The catching up of the Son and the protective custody of the woman that follows must involve some gap in time. Only by spiritualizing the text or playing down the textual details, while emphasizing textual generalities can one escape this conclusion. The woman has a future that is insured by God.
(1) Then the woman fled into the wilderness (2) where she had a place prepared by God, (3) so that there she would be nourished (4) for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
1. Then the woman fled into the wilderness = indicates that the safety of the Son in heaven is followed by the safety of the woman in the wilderness. This confirms that the Son was caught up from the earth. The wilderness has a rich tradition as a place of safety from trouble as well as a place of temptation and testing. Unlike Jesus who went to the wilderness to be tempted and Israel who went to the wilderness to be tested, the woman flees to the wilderness to be "saved." First, she will be saved physically and then spiritually, as with Elijah whom God protected and fed in the wilderness for three and a half years (1 Kings 17:1-7; 19:3-4).
2. Where she had a place prepared by God = explains why the woman flees into the wilderness. We are not told how the woman knows that God has a place prepared for her. The notion of a prepared place is reminiscent of John 14:2-3.
3. So that there she would be nourished = indicates a result of the prepared place. Not only will the woman receive protection, but she will also receive nourishment (food and water) to sustain her life during the time of protective custody.
4. For one thousand two hundred and sixty days = is the exact amount of time the beast (Antichrist) is given authority to persecute the woman and her offspring (Rev 12:13-17). The woman (the remnant) will be protected from the persecution of the beast (Antichrist).
(1) And there was war in heaven, (2) Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon (Satan). The dragon (Satan) and his angels waged war, and (3) they were not strong enough, and (4) there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.
1. And there was war in heaven = appears at first glance to be an intrusion into the narration of the woman and her Son’s miraculous rescue from the composite great red dragon. However, when the reader understands that Revelation 12:1-6 focuses on the composite dragon (empire) and Revelation 12:7 and following focuses on the singular dragon (Satan) the problem is solved. The resumption of the woman’s rescue in Revelation 12:13 also underscores this point. The text indicates a war started in heaven. A war usually consists of more than one battle. So here, for the war will begin in heaven with a decisive battle that will finish on earth at Armageddon.
This war is a cleansing war. First heaven will be cleansed of Satan. Then the earth will be cleansed of all evil doers—Satan and followers.
2. Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon (Satan) = defines the combatants of the battle in heaven. It is important that the reader understands that the Greek supports the conclusion that Michael initiates this battle. Once the Son is caught up to heaven all hope is lost that the composite dragon will devour the child. The battle is not the result of the great red dragon pursuing the child to heaven.
The importance of Michael to the eschatological end times cannot be over-stated. His voice will be heard at the Rapture (1 Thess 4:16). His actions will initiate the final unparalleled persecution of Israel (Dan 12:1). He initiates the battle that ignites the final conflict prior to the coming of the Son to rule all the nations (Rev 12:7). There is every possibility that he is the restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7. The former three passages mentioned all deal with the beginning of the forty-two months; time, times and half a time; and, one thousand two hundred and sixty days, which mark the eschatological period just prior to the Lord’s return at Armageddon.
3. They were not strong enough = pertains to Satan. That is, he and his angels were not strong enough to prevent Michael and his angels from carrying out their orders to cast Satan out of highest heavens.
4. There was no longer a place found for them in heaven = that is, they no longer had a purpose in highest heaven. This suggests that a very important point in the history of mankind has indeed come about. Satan no longer has a purpose in the highest heaven.
(1) And the great dragon was thrown down, (2) the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and (3) his angels were thrown down with him.
1. And the great dragon was thrown down = summarizes the outcome of the battle in heaven. Notice Satan is not the great red dragon. John has changed the referent at this point. This undoubtedly must have been the original order to Michael and his angels. At this point, we are not told where he is thrown down to.
2. The serpent of old = begins a detailed identification of the dragon. This is necessary to distinguish him from the composite dragon of Revelation 12:1-6. The serpent is known as the deceiver of Eve (2 Cor 11:3, Gen 3:1). However, the serpent has never been explicitly identified as Satan.
Two clauses will further explain exactly who this serpent is: First, he is described as he "who is called the devil and Satan." The devil is his Greek name. Satan is his Hebrew name. Second, the serpent is identified as he "who deceives the whole world." Deception is the major tool of Satan especially in connection with end times. Jesus warned believers, "See to it that no one misleads you (Matt 24:4)." The apostle Paul warned believers, "Let no one in any way deceive you (2 Thess 2:3a)." Both warnings occur in the context of end time discussions.
3. His angels were thrown down with him = makes clear that Satan is not allowed in heaven once it is purged. All the fallen ranks of the satanic order are limited to earth for a short time (three and a half years).
(1) Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, (2) "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, (3) for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, (4) he who accuses them before our God day and night. (5) And they overcame him (6) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
1. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying = as before, the speaker who proclaims loudly in heaven information relative to a previous event is not explicitly identified.
2. Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come = begins this praisefest. God and His Messiah are praised because of the historic importance of Satan’s expulsion from heaven to the earth. The cleansing of heaven of satanic influence is the first step in the final process that will bring about the actualization of God’s physical reign on the earth.
Salvation is not spoken of in a spiritual sense, but physical. God is praised because of His victory over Satan that brings about the cleansing of the heavens. Power (dunamis) of God in contrast to the weakness of Satan brings praise of God’s power. The kingdom (reign) of our God is the third attribute praised in light of Satan’s explosion from heaven. In our western mindset, kingdom is generally associated with a geographical domain. However, closer to the biblical sense is the idea of "reign" or "exercise of power and authority."
The authority of His Christ have come is the final element of this praisefest. This is the only place in the Revelation to speak of the authority of Christ. After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus declared, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." The expulsion of Satan from heaven will be an overt expression of the Lord’s authority over heaven. The expulsion of Satan from the earth will be an overt expression of the Lord’s authority over earth.
Some argue that this proclamation is in contradiction with the similar proclamation in Revelation 11:15. This, they argue, adds support to their claim that the book of Revelation either recapitulates or speaks of events as completed before they actually occur (proleptical). However, such conclusions overlook the obvious. The proclamation in Revelation 11:15 concerns God’s reign on earth. The proclamation in Revelation 12:10 concerns God’s reign in heaven. God has always reigned in heaven. Therefore, in what sense has His reign in heaven come?
3. For the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down = explains another reason for the praisefest in heaven and the sense in which God’s reign in heaven has come. Accuser is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word satan, which is transliterated in English. This explains why Satan no longer had a place (purpose) in heaven. Therefore, he was thrown down. There is a problem here. The phrase our brethren suggests that the loud voice in heaven are peers with those accused by Satan. It is clear that those accused by Satan are human for they face death. However, the issue is resolved when once it is understood that the loud voice in heaven must be human as well. There is nothing about the voice or what is said that would limit it to an angelic host. In other words, it could be the voice of a man or men.
4. He who accuses them before our God day and night = explains Satan’s purpose in heaven. However, with his defeat, he lost his job. His day and night (it means continually) job of complaining to God about the righteous has ended.
5. And they overcame him = continues the explanation concerning why Satan is thrown down from heaven to earth. The pronoun they refers to the brethren on earth. The brethren conquered Satan. Three reasons are given as the basis of their victory.
First, because of the blood of the Lamb, they conquered Satan. The blood of the Lamb refers to His death. Because of the death of Jesus, the brethren conquered Satan. They believed that Jesus is Lord.
Second, because of the word of their testimony is the second reason the brethren conquered their accuser. Because of the word, namely their testimony to Jesus, the brethren were victorious. The brethren defeated Satan because they professed Jesus as Lord.
Third, [because] they did not love their life even when faced with death is the third reason the brethren were victorious over their accuser. Some have taken this clause to mean that the brethren were martyrs. However, it does not say they died, but that they were willing to die, if necessary. They would not renege concerning the Lordship of Christ. Instead, they resisted up to and if necessary, death. This is a wonderful testimony to the power and grace of God in the lives of those who truly know the Lord. The apostle Paul states, "no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3)." They would not deny that Jesus is Lord.
(1) For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. (2) Woe to the earth and the sea, (3) because the devil has come down to you, (4) having great wrath, (5) knowing that he has only a short time."
1. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them = is a call for celebration in heaven by her residents. The reason they are to celebrate is twofold: (1) Satan purpose in heaven is over; and (2) the brethren on earth render his accusations baseless.
2. Woe to the earth and the sea = is the second of two results of Satan’s expulsion from heaven. Woe indicates that a grave situation stands in the path of those trying to reach tomorrow. As with the above statement, both heaven and her inhabitants are to celebrate, in contrast the earth and the sea [and those who dwell in them] are to anticipate trouble.
3. Because the devil has come down to you = is the reason for the pronouncement of "woe." However, it is not the fact that he has come down that is critical.
4. Having great wrath = is the reason the earth and the sea [and those who dwell in them] should be sober. The term wrath (thumos) is "a state of intense anger, with the implication of passionate outbursts — ‘anger, fury, wrath, rage (Louw-Nida, § 88.178).’" This same term is attributed to God in Revelation 15:1. The wrath of God mentioned in Revelation 15:1 is defined by the bowl judgments of Revelation 16-19. It is therefore easy to understand why the loud voice in heaven warns the inhabitants of the earth and sea. Satan’s outbursts of anger and rage may not equal God’s rage in intensity and scope, but those who suffer it will be just as dead.
5. Knowing that he has only a short time = suggests a temporal limit between the cleansing of heaven and the cleansing of earth of satanic influence. It is the destiny of the devil along with his expulsion from heaven and his defeat by the sinning but victorious brethren that fuels Satan’s rage.
The length of Satan’s temporal limit is described as "a short time." According to Revelation 12:14 the woman will be protected from the dragon for time, times and half a time, which equals forty-two months or one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
This conclusively proves that the wrath that the followers of Christ will experience on the earth during the "short time" of Satan’s anger outbursts is not the wrath of God. The overwhelming part of the time called "the great tribulation" is the wrath of Satan against God’s elect.
(1) And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, (2) he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
1. And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth = speaks to the consequence of Satan’s expulsion from heaven.
2. He persecuted the woman = is the first victim of Satan’s wrath. However, the NASB’s translation is a bit misleading at this point. The verb to persecute (dioko) is better translated here, to pursue after. The dragon’s intent is certainly to persecute, but the woman will be delivered before he is able to accomplish his plans. He is pursuing the woman to persecute here.
(1) But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, (2) so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, (3) where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, (4) from the presence of the serpent.
1. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman = explains how the woman escapes the dragon. In Revelation 12:5, we were told that the woman fled into the wilderness, but we were not told how she fled, how she knew to flee, or how she knew where to flee. Those details are now explained. John states that "the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman." Does John suggest that the method of escape is well-known to his readers—this is the importance of the article. This is clearly a figure of speech. There is no literal eagle here. However, Scripture speaks of an eagle of deliverance. The eagle metaphor of deliverance to safety is expanded in Deuteronomy 32:10-14. In this passage, God is compared to an eagle in His care for the Jews. However, in Exodus 19:4 God calls Himself an eagle. It states, "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself." God compares His deliverance of the Jews from Egypt to that of an eagle who carries her babies in safety when teaching them to fly. Closer examination of John’s statement reveals that the woman is given "the two wings," which perhaps suggests the surety of the deliverance.
Notice that there is no difference between the agenda of the composite dragon and the dragon. The composite dragon is so identified with the dragon that one is able to speak of them interchangeably.
2. So that she could fly into the wilderness to her place = continues the metaphor of miraculous deliverance. With the eagle’s wings, the woman is able to fly to safety. The exact literal way God will deliver His people is not indicated, however the eagle metaphor suggests that it will be supernatural much like the way God delivered the children from Egypt. The Jews walked out of Egypt under the divine protection of God. They had a pillar of fire between them and their enemies.
3. Where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time = is clearly an allusion to Daniel 7:25. The time reference only occurs in the books of Revelation/Daniel and deals with the persecution of the Jewish people by the beast. Daniel does not indicate a miraculous deliverance by God, but does indicate that the people will survive to receive an eternal kingdom.
4. From the presence of the serpent = is the ultimate goal of God’s miraculous deliverance of the woman/the remnant.
(1) And the serpent poured water like a river out of his month after the woman, (2) so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.
1. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his month after the woman = indicates Satan’s response to God’s miraculous deliverance of the remnant. It also suggests something about the way God will deliver the people. It would make no sense to send water after the woman unless the woman is fleeing in such a matter that water could deter her escape. However, in keeping with the metaphor, the serpent poured water out of his month. This is obviously a figure of speech. Literal water is not intended here.
2. So that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood = indicates the intended outcome of the serpent’s actions. Obviously, his purpose is to destroy the woman.
One cannot be dogmatic at this point, but it would seem that John is clearly relating this event to the most important deliverance event in the history of Israel. The Egypt/Israel conflict and God’s special deliverance is the single most important event for the Jewish people in Old Testament history. God delivered the woman (Israel) by destroying the Egyptians with a flood. Exodus 15:12 specifically says, "The earth swallowed them (the Egyptians)." Rather, God will more than likely walk the people out of Jerusalem under His divine protection as Israel came out of Egypt. The serpent will send an army after the Jews, but will not be successful because of God’s divine intervention.
(1) But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.
1. But the earth helped the woman = indicates the nature of the woman’s miraculous escape. Like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the earth will swallow the woman’s enemies (Num16:32-34). John has clearly modeled this deliverance after the deliverance from Egypt. This will be the second time that God used nature to defeat the enemies of the woman/Judah.
This also indicates that the dragon will lose a major army just prior to Antichrist’s reign of terror.
(1) So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and (2) went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
1. So the dragon was enraged with the woman = indicates the response of the dragon to the woman’s miraculous escape and his loss of an army. Was enraged translates the Greek verb orgizo, to be furious.
2. Went off to make war with the rest of her children = indicates that the dragon, unable to persecute the woman, turns his attention to her children.
This is a critically important phrase. Who exactly are the children of the woman? The Greek literally says, "her seed." Since "seed" is normally spoken of in relation to a man rather than a women, this perhaps is a clue that John is alluding to Genesis 3:15. There it is the seed of the woman that will bruise the heel of the serpent. The apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:16 that the seed of the woman referred to Christ.
The correct identity of the offspring of the woman would perhaps have remained unclear, if not for the details John offers. Two relative clauses make their identity certain. First, the seed of the woman refers to those "who keep the commandments of God." This phrase is clearly a defining strait of those who are born again, i.e. Christians. It will be repeated again in Revelation 14:12. I John 5:3 states, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." To keep God’s commandments is the true mark of a believer. The second relative clause that defines the "seed" are those "[who] hold to the testimony of Jesus." This statement removes any doubt that believers in Jesus Christ are the offspring of the woman that the dragon seeks to persecute.