We have come in our examination of the book of Revelation to the 12th chapter. This is a key chapter in the book. It is one of the most symbolic in a book filled with symbolism. The manner in which one interprets the symbols here will determine how one not only interprets this book, but in reality all of Bible prophecy. John opens this section, 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. [Rev. 12:1, 2 KJV] We see here the first of seven signs or wonders that occur during the final half of the Great Tribulation. John says it is, “great”. This again is the Greek, megas. Interestingly, the greatest battles in the cosmic battle of the ages between the God of Heaven and Satan are yet to occur. They will transpire during the time again that Jesus referred to as the Great Tribulation. [See Matt. 24:21]
History as far as it relates to mankind and the created order as we know it began about six thousand years ago. We read of it beginning in the first chapter of Genesis beginning with Genesis 1:2. I believe that Genesis 1:1 gives us a short glimpse into what one could refer to as, “eternity past.” In other words, there was time before that which we understand as such today. We don’t really know how long ago the “beginning” was. We just know that in the beginning, God created (Heb. Bara) in the beginning. “Beginning” is from the Hebrew, reshiyth, which means first in rank, order, place, or time. This lends itself itself to the concept of an original creation. In the first place, God bara, created. However, by the time we get to verse two, it appears that something happened. There we read, And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. [Gen. 1:2] “Was” is the Hebrew, hayah which can be translated as, “became”. So that which was originally created (bara), became (hayah), “without form and void”.
This Hebrew phrase, tohu va bohu indicates a change from that which was originally created. Not only that, but we see “darkness” (Hebrew, choshek), covering the “face of the deep”. It would appear that something happened! Darkness indicates the absence of God. Why would I and others believe that something occurred to bring the created order to the state that we see in Genesis 1:2? Not to mention everything we have already stated, consider the prophecy of Isaiah, For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. [Isa. 45:18 KJV] “In vain” is the same Hebrew word, tohu. He created it not tohu va bohu, but it became tohu va bohu. Isaiah makes this point very clear here. Ok, but what does all of this have to do with Revelation 12? Everything really. Because that which brought the original creation to a state of being “without form and void”, seems to be some sort of judgment. Judgment on what? Although we can not be dogmatic on this point, it would seem a judgment on Lucifer and some sort of pre-Adamic creation, whether they be angelic or otherwise. This happened at some point in eternity past. We aren’t told a great deal about this period of time, but we are given a couple of glimpses into it.
For example, Isaiah 14 tells us of the fall of Lucifer from heaven. In verses 12 – 15 we see that Lucifer, whom Ezekiel reveals was the highest of God’s creation, became lifted up in pride and led a rebellion against the Throne of God. His attempted coup failed and he was at that time cast out of Heaven. Jesus in fact, who was co-existent with the Father from eternity past stated in Luke 10:18, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. So, in eternity past Lucifer (Satan) was cast out of Heaven. Many scholars believe that he was ruling over the earth when he attempted to ascend to God’s throne. Hence the judgment that appears to have happened causing the earth to be in the state we find it in, in Genesis 1:2. By the time the man Adam, and the woman Eve were in the Garden Satan was already there using the body of a serpent to deceive Eve.
Many years ago when I first began to study the scriptures I thought that when Lucifer was thrown out of heaven and judged that he was cast out forever. That is until I came across the following in the book of Job, Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. [Job 1:6, 7 KJV] He came before the LORD to bring accusation an against God’s servant Job. We find this scene repeated in Job 2:1, 2. In the days of Job Satan had at least limited access to God’s presence. As we come to Revelation 12 we find that he is still referred to as the, “accuser of our brethren.” As I write these words he continues to bring railing accusation against believers. Thank God, we have an Advocate in Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, and an Advocate on the earth in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Toward the end of the Great Tribulation Satan’s accusatory role will come to an end as he is forever cast out of Heaven to the earth, thus bringing the third and final woe. [See Rev. 12:12] We have laid a great deal of foundation, now lets go back and identify some symbols that appear in this chapter.
The very first symbol is again in verse 1. 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: Who is this woman? She is the second of four symbolic women in this book. The very first one we saw was back in the letters to the seven churches, and identified symbolically (although an actual woman) as Jezebel. [See Rev. 2:20] We see thirdly a woman riding on a scarlet colored beast, symbolizing the apostate church. [Rev. 17:1 – 7] In the fourth place we see the Bride of the Lamb, representing the true Church. [Rev. 19:7, 8] Who is the woman here in 12:1? Some have identified this woman as the Roman Catholic Church. Others have said it is Mary, the mother of our Lord. Some old commentators like Matthew Henry and Jamieson, Fausett, and Brown identified this “woman” as the Christian Church. I submit to you that none of these are correct. If we are going to rightly identify this woman in Revelation 12 we are going to have to connect this symbol with Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9, 10, And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? This woman representing Jacob (Israel) and his sons is the same woman we see in our text before us now. Let me be clear, this “woman” in Revelation 12 is Israel.
Then we read, And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. [Vs. 2]Who is the “child” the woman is struggling to bring forth? A few Bible teachers identify this “man-child” as the 144,000 we were first introduced to back in chapter 7. I submit to you this cannot be, as this one 1) Comes forth from the woman [See Isa. 9:6, Heb. 7:14, Rom. 9:4, 5, John 4:9, Mic. 5:2, 3] According to his humanity our Messiah is a Jew, He came forth from Israel. He is the “child” the “woman” brought forth. 2) He came to rule all nations with a rod of iron. This is clearly Christ. [See 2:27]
There is no problem identifying this next symbol, as we are clearly told in verse 9, 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. There is an important point to make here that will aid any person coming to this book desiring to understand it. Notice the word, wonder in verse 1 and 3. This is the Greek, aemeion, and it is most often translated in the KJV as either “sign” (29 times) or “signs” (22 times). It is translated once as, “token” (2 Thess. 3:17). It is a sign or a token. It is when used in this context symbolic in nature. I draw the readers attention to this because whenever John is using symbolic language here in the book of Revelation, he clearly identifies it as such. If one makes symbolic or figurative that which is intended to be understood literally, that person will not understand what is being presented, and will therefore misinterpret a passage or the book as a whole. Many commentators and teachers have done just that.
In this sign Satan, “The Dragon” is presented in his true nature and character with all the wrappings removed. Verses 3 and 4 states, 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. Notice some key words in these two verses. 1) “Great” – He is called great because of his control over this present world system. [See 2 Cor. 4:4] He rules the Nations of the world at this present time. At the time of the writing of Revelation it was Rome, but he has ruled all nations to a greater or lesser degree. 2) “Red dragon” – He is called a “dragon” only in Revelation. He is is “Red” because of his murderous nature. He was a murderer from the beginning. [See John 8:44] He has no regard for human life whatsoever. A “Red Dragon” portrays him as a vicious killer. 3) He is said to have, “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” This sounds very much like the “Beast” of chapter 13.This Red dragon is Satan himself, whereas the “Beast” of chapter 13 is a man empowered by Satan leading a system that is also satanically empowered and orchestrated.
“Seven heads” here speaks of seven Empires which have persecuted Israel. It is important to remember that all of this has to do with Israel, and really not with any other nation except as they relate to Israel. These seven “heads” were: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the “ten horned” kingdom which is yet to come up, and will be the seventh. It is important at this point to draw an important cross-reference with the prophecy of Daniel. Daniel and Revelation are really sister books, if you will. Daniel in his vision didn’t see the “Beast” or “Great Red Dragon”, having seven horns and ten heads, but rather saw them separately. In fact, he didn’t see the first two Empires which persecuted Israel, which were Egypt and Assyria, which existed before his time, but only those from his day forward. He saw Babylon represented as a lion, Medo-Persia represented by a bear, the Grecian Empire represented by a leopard, and Rome represented by a nondescript beast. And on the beast he saw the ten horns that John mentioned in the verse of our study. [See Dan. 7:1 – 8]
The Red Dragon also is seen having “Ten horns.” John sees this a bit differently than Daniel as well, but they mean the same thing. John saw the seven heads and ten horns all on the “great red dragon”, which of course represents Satan. In other words, Satan ruled these nations from behind the scenes, and in this particular rule attempted to hinder Israel, and in fact wherever possible attempted to destroy her. John, in seeing Satan himself, sees the one who manipulates these Empires. Daniel saw the Empire itself [See Dan. 7]. Concerning the “ten horns”, Daniel said, After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. [Dan. 7:7 KJV] From Daniel’s vision we know that the “ten horns” which actually represent ten nations, will be located in the old Roman Empire, and it was on this particular beast that he saw the ten horns, signifying that these ten nations will be in this particular area.
All of these events which we have just mentioned are now history, with the exception of the “Ten Horns.” This ten-nation confederacy is yet future. More than likely, they will be formed after the rapture of the Church, and before the seven-year Tribulation Period begins.
We will look at the “seven crowns” and much more next time.