The War in Heaven
1And 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:
A wonder is a sign like the miracles. This is not a literal woman but a symbol representing something.
B. a woman clothed...Edit
This woman is clothed with some very specific raiment.
- Sun is a symbol for kings. In this case Christ is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2; Matt. 13:43; 17:2; Acts 26:13; 2 Peter 1:19; Rev. 1:16; 19:7; 21:23; 22:5, 16). She is essentially clothed in royalty of Christ as His bride.
- The moon is a symbol of lesser authority. Here, the church has less authority than Christ, but still above “the earth”. Christians have a duty to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2-3) and rule it spiritually through our message and our example (Rev. 12:11, 13).
- Stars are always symbolic of authority figures that are subject to the king (the sun). In this case, the leaders are 12, i.e. the 12 apostles. More proof of this below.
2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
The offspring of the church are always Christians (Gal. 4). That she travails in birth is the pain of persecution and the birth of this child is extremely difficult, a higher level of persecution.
3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
Another symbol appears.
B. behold a great red dragon...Edit
The dragon has very specific descriptions:
- This greatness is the real power that the Jews had fighting against the church. Had Christ not been her protector, the church would surely have been utterly destroyed by the Jews who hated her.
- Fire represents judgment. In Rev. 12:10 the judgment of the Jews against the Christians is false but it is still fiery, that is prosecuted with great determination and destruction.
- For consistency, red in apocalyptic literature is always a symbol for war (bloodshed). The war the Jews waged against the Christians was a bloody one, full of death. The red symbol is in line with the fiery symbol above.
- Similar to the “dragon” beast of Daniel 7. Represents seven rulers of Judea, the Herods who had real power over their people.
- Ten toparchs (regions) of Judea. Horns can represent individual leaders (Daniel 7) or ruling positions (Daniel 8).
- The seven rulers were kings, royalty. Crowns don’t necessarily mean true authority (sea beast) but that they hold the position of royalty. Under the sea beast we see seven heads (actually guide the thoughts and actions of Rome, the beast) but ten crowns (adding three ineffectual kings/crowns to the seven heads we get ten kings. Three of these were ineffectual reflecting the three little horns of Daniel 7). [Historically this is Galba, Othos, and Vitellius.]
4And 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.
A. The Dragon's TailEdit
his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: These are the stars of the woman’s crown (the only ones in the immediate context. Essentially the dragon was able to kill 4 of the Apostles (Herod killed James – Acts 12:2), giving them over to the whims of the Jewish people – who the Herod’s wanted to please but didn’t not really associate with on a theological level. [Historically Peter, Matthew, and Philip were also all killed before Revelation was written.]
B. The Dragon Stands Read to Devour the Woman's ChildEdit
the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. This cannot be Christ because Herod was not aware of his birth till after the fact. This is the Jews who are aware of the church (Acts 2-5) and are ready to persecute it (Acts 7-9). They do so by killing a number of Christians led by Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1).
5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
A. she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:Edit
I believe this represents Antipas (Rev. 2:13), who is representative of all Christan martyrs who died before AD 73. Note that it is “he that overcometh” in (Rev. 2:26-27) that will “rule with a rod of iron”. Here, overcometh can mean those who are faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10). We see the martyrs [beheaded] “living and reigning with Christ for a thousand years” in Rev. 20:4. If the child is Christ then we have one woman with two different husbands (God the Father and Christ the Son), the second (Christ) being the father of her later children. Not an acceptable picture, even if only metaphorical.
B. her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.Edit
This is a reference to the martyrs overcoming even in death because once they died, persecution could no longer touch them. They were in God’s hands now (Rev. 11:12).
6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
A lot is made of a specific place for the woman to flee, but the Bible refers to the wilderness as simply the land outside of the promised land. I think it more consistent to say that the church at Jerusalem fled to the cities of the seven churches, which are prepared of God by this very letter from John. They are Gentile cities and so still considered the “wilderness” before the new heavens and new earth rearranged every consideration. The 1260 days is equal to 42 months is equal to 3.5 years. That is, the church fled Jerusalem before the Romans got there and were protected until Jerusalem was destroyed.
7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
A. there was war in heaven: Edit
This is Christ (Michael – Daniel 10-12) coming to the defense of His bride, the woman clothed with His royal garments. He has come to cause a change in authority, thus the war is in heaven, the sphere of authority.
B. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,Edit
Christians vs. Jews in spiritual combat. Their weapons were physical vs. spiritual, the sword of metal vs. the spiritual sword which is the Word of God.
8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
The Jews would have no more place of authority as God’s people. The kingdom as a whole would be taken from them, along with the Jewish commonwealth, and given to the gentiles.
9And 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.
The dragon is given more descriptors:
A. the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and SatanEdit
Jews of this time period are related to Satan, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the Father of lies. We see this in their lying to the Gentiles (we are your friends and submit to your authority, here is our wealth to prove it), the Christians (Judaizers), and even to each other (Herod deceiving the nation of Judah into submitting to Rome). The Jews are compared to Satan already in Revelation and in other passages:
- 1. Revelation 2:9 - I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan
- These are the Jews who claim to abide by the Law of God but are not. They are of the “synagogue” of Satan. That is they are of their father the devil (John 8:44). That synagogue (a Jewish term for a place of learning) is associated with Satan is a strong indicator that you are right associating the dragon with the Jews.
- 2. Revelation 2:10 – the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried
- The Jews certainly did this to Christians all through the book of Acts. Even pursuing Paul through the Greek cities (Acts 13-21) and doing the same to the Greek Christians.
- 3. Revelation 2:13 - I know ... where thou [Pergamos] dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
- Here is where Antipas is associated with martyrdom. He was slain “where Satan dwelleth” or at “Satan’s seat”. This is a reference to the Jewish synagogue there where likely Christians (especially former Jews) were brought up on “trial” and carried out sentence there (Acts 22:19).
- 4. Revelation 2:24 - But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
- In this context we read of Jezebel (who has the reputation as the most wicked woman in the Bible). She is representative of the Judaizing influence inside the church (Acts 15). Jezebel’s fornication is that of the whore in later chapters, her fascination with the other nations. Her chance given by God to repent is thrown away and so God destroys her as we see in chapters 18-19. Those that have not known the depths of Satan are those of the church of Thyatira who did not give in to the Judaizing influence returning to the worse, flawed Law of Moses (Heb. 8).
- 5. Revelation 3:9 - Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
- Again we see the “synagogue of Satan” (see 2:9 above). The Jews will come to realize that the Christians are now God’s people and enjoy His love and the Jews have lost this status.
- 6. Allusion is also made to the Jews as Satan in Romans 16:20.
B. which deceiveth the whole world: Edit
Continues lying motif, the word “world” is oikoumene, which is kingdom, realm, or domain, so the Herods deceived the kingdom of Judah into submitting to Rome for a while.
C. he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.Edit
The dragon, the leadership of the persecuting powers of the Jews, looses the battle for authority and is made no more than the common people subject to the new power in heaven, Christ.
10And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
A. The Loud VoiceEdit
God declares Michael His Annointed the winner and the church fully established at the defeat of the dragon.
B. for the accuser of our brethren is cast down...Edit
Relates to the fiery description above, a false judgment or accusing before the Judge of the Christians, the Jewish (and Judiazing) claim that the Christian faith was either false (Acts 5; etc.) or merely an extension of the Mosaical Law (Acts 15).
11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Judaism was the lesser system and could not save. The superiority of Christianity won out because of what Christ did for mankind. That message, the word of their testimony, the gospel conquered through conversion or the fulfillment of prophecy (such as the Olivet Discourse). Overcoming is the same as found in Rev. 2-3. Christians were faithful even to the point of martyrdom, and this strength of conviction caused the church to flourish during persecution rather than die out.
12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
Here the church is pictured as already in existence with Christ as King. He has overthrown the spiritual authority of the Jews and now the physical end of Judaism is coming. The warning to the earth (Jews) and the sea (Rome) indicates the fall of the Herodian line where Herod Agrippa II is no longer considered royalty by the Jewish leadership, but went to Rome. In the larger picture, the persecuting Jews (now without a king) are severely angry because they see their foretold destruction coming and as much as they wanted to deny it, couldn’t.
13And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
This goes back to chapter 11 that after Herod was gone and the War of the Jews truly started, the persecution of the church continued.
14And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
The eagles wings represent great endurance and perseverance (Isa. 40:31). The church at large was given the endurance and fortitude (by their hope in the gospel, specifically the eschatological parts. The times, time, and half a time are 3.5 years (times = 2 + time = 1 + half a time = .5) which is exactly equal to the 1260 days.
15And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
The flood is a symbol of a mass of people, usually an army. If the church is fleeing Jerusalem, then the Jews are still doing everything they can to eradicate it before Rome arrives. Even thinking they had destroyed the church as per chapter 11.
16And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
The earth here is the Jewish people, who inadvertently help the woman by engaging the Romans throughout the land of Palestine giving the Christians time and diversion to escape that region. Those who sought to hunt down the Christians could not find them as they were too busy dodging Romans.
17And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
All that is left to the Jews is persecuting individual Christians throughout the rest of the world as they are able until the War is over and they loose all capacity to persecute the church. In Truth and Love.