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A PAGEANT OF THE AGES – Revelation 12:1-17

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 25, 2016 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; May 25, 2016 from Revelation 12:1-17

Theme: The twelfth chapter of Revelation describes for us the ages-long struggle of Satan against the plan of God for our redemption.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

Chapter 12 marks the beginning of the retelling of the story of the day of the Lord. This second telling of the story runs from 12:1-19:10; and marks a repetition of the material we saw in chapters 6-11. The difference is, however, that while the first telling relates the story from the stand-point of heaven, the second telling relates the story from the perspective of the earth. This second telling particularly focuses on the evil work of the devil on this earth through his human instrument, the Antichrist.

But this second telling of the story doesn’t simply begin where Chapter 6 began. Chapter 12 goes much further back in time; and truly begins the story at the beginning. It takes us all the way to the beginning of the devil’s animosity toward the redemptive plan of God through His chosen people Israel; and particularly, toward the Christ who would come from her. This is the story of the unseen spiritual conflict that is behind the many earthly conflicts we see in the world arena against the people of Israel—and against those who believe on Israel’s promised Messiah, Jesus.


A. The woman being pictured (vv. 1-2) is not “the church”, as many have thought. The Child the woman bears is clearly Christ; and Christ is not the offspring of the church but rather the cornerstone of the church. Nor is she “Mary” as others have suggested, since the story of the story of the woman in the vision goes far past the time of Mary’s earthly life, and describes experiences that Mary did not have. Rather, this symbolic woman is best seen as a picture of Israel. The description of the woman as being clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a garland of twelve stars on her head, matches the symbolic description of Israel given by dream to Joseph in Genesis 37:9-11—that of his father Jacob, his mother Rachel, and his eleven brethren (with himself as a twelfth; thus constituting twelve tribes). It is from this very foundation—the foundation of the people of Israel—that the Christ would come (specifically, from the tribe of Judah; see Micah 5:2). The woman is shown in this vision as being great with child and about to give birth—placing the events of verses 1-4 at the time prior to Christ’s birth as Israel’s long expected Messiah.

B. With verse 5, the focus now moves to the time of the birth of Christ. The dragon (a dangerous creature of great malice) is the symbolic representation of the devil (see v. 9). He is pictured as having seven heads which are representative of the seven great world empires he has operated through in Gentile world history—all of which vitally impacted the story of Israel: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the revived Roman empire that is yet to come. This ‘dragon’ has ten horns, which represents the confederacy of ten kings that will cooperate with his evil work in this world (see 17:12-13), and he has seven diadems which represents him as the the one to whom the authority over the kingdoms of this world has been (temporarily) given (see Luke 4:6; where the devil boasts that all authority of the kingdoms of this world have been delivered to him). He is shown has having dragged a third of the stars with his tail, which possibly represents the third of the angelic hosts that fell with the devil in his rebellion (see 12:7, where they are called ‘his’ angels; also see Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). This dragon—the devil—is shown as poised in readiness to devour the Child of the woman as soon as He is born (see Matthew 2:3-8, 13, 16-18). What a horrifying image!

C. The woman is presented as having given birth to a male Child “who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (see Psalm 2:9). The “rod of iron” is meant to communicate that His will be a final rule over the nations—one in which the forms of the nations of this world will no longer exist, but will be broken up and remade according to His sovereign will. His rule will be the ultimate one; and there will be no other after His (see Daniel 2:44). What a threat this Child’s birth is to the evil rule of this dragon! The Child is shown as being caught up (after being born into the world) to God and to His throne—which pictures Christ’s resurrection and ascension (after having accomplished our atonement on the cross).

D. Finally, the woman is shown to have 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” (see also 11:2, 3). This probably speaks of the protection that God provides for the Jewish people during the time of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). As Jeremiah 30:7 says; “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”


A. The scene now shifts to a war that has broken out in heaven. This passage should best be seen as a parentheses between verses 6 and 13; giving us the background of the events that will occur just prior to the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week (Daniel 9:24-27). Michael—a mighty angel who stands guard over the people of Israel (see Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; also Jude 9)—and the angelic armies under his leadership, are shown to be fighting with the devil and his angles. But the devil and his angels do not prevail, “nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer”. This suggests that they were fighting to retain a position in the heavens that they once had (and to some limited degree, still retain; see Ephesians 6:12) but had now, in an ultimate sense, lost. As a result, the devil—here described clearly as the serpent who tempted the woman in the garden (see Genesis 3:1ff); and as the “devil” (i.e., the slanderer); and “Satan” (which means “the adversary”); and as the one who deceives the nations of the world (see Revelation 20:3, 8, 10)—is cast out of heaven and down to the earth with all his angels. That this is meant to be a parenthetical picture, and of events that occur prior to the later half of the last week of Daniel, is shown by the repeated description of the hiding of the woman in the wilderness for 1,260 days (see 12:6, 14).

B. There is great celebration in heaven at the devil’s defeat. A loud voice (probably of the redeemed in glory, because the voice refers to the persecuted saints as “our brethren”) declares that “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”. It’s declared that these “brethren” overcame the devil by the blood of the Lamb (in which they trusted), and by the word of their testimony (which they continued to declare in spite of the persecution they suffered), and by the fact that they did not love their lives to the death (and willingly laid down their lives for Christ).

C. Heaven is called to rejoice. But a sober warning is issued to the earth and the sea—”Woe!” The expression of woe is because of the fact that the devil has been thrown down to the earth and is greatly angry, because he knows that he has but a little time. The doom of the lake of fire is very close at hand for him … and he knows it.


A. In wrath over his downfall, the dragon persecutes the woman who gave birth to the Child (Israel); but the woman is given “two wings of a great eagle [which suggests divine provision of some sort; see Exodus 19:4], that she might fly into the wilderness to her place” (see v. 6). She is said to be nourished there for a time, times, and a half a time (i.e., three-and-a-half years; see also the 1,260 days of verse 6) from the serpent. This is the dragon’s first attack in his rage against the woman.

B. A second attack comes when the devil (now called “the serpent”) spewed water out of his mouth like a flood in order to wash her away (see Isaiah 59:19). This may symbolize the populous of the Gentile world that will have been deceptively turned against Israel (by the devil’s lying influence) in an aggressive effort to wipe her off the face of the earth. But the attempt is, once again, frustrated somehow. The earth is shown to help the woman by opening up its mouth and swallowing the flood.

C. Finally, the devil (again called “the dragon”)—intensely enraged against the woman in his frustrated attempts to destroy her—turns against “the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ”. It’s important to remember that, at this point of the “second” telling of the story (as it is viewed by this particular Bible study), the church has not yet been removed from the earth (see 14:14-15; which parallels 7:9-17). This final attack is directed against all believers on the earth during this dreadful time; and is described for us in greater detail in chapter 13.

* * * * * * * * * * *

What an explanation this passage gives us of the warning that the apostle Peter gives:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

But what a promise of victory it also assures to us! As Peter then goes on to say;

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (vv. 10-11).

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