REVELATION CHAPTER 12: HALF-WAY
This is the half-way point of Revelation. It is also a summary of what has happened and a look forward what is to come. We must always remember that the Book of Revelation is all about revealing Jesus Christ.
There is much symbolism in these verses. The woman in birth pains is very similar to Matthew 24 where Jesus describes the signs in heaven and earth events. The basic symbols involve a woman, a dragon, stars, and Heaven.
Be careful that we do not read into this passage traditions or fiction or what we “think” happened. “The cosmic battle before time when Satan fell” is how some take this passage, but is not anywhere else in Scripture. There is a pattern of rebellion (Garden, Babel, etc) but one before time began is not in Scripture.
Verses 1-6 are at the center of the whole Revelation with the birth and ascension of Jesus. It is odd, but John sees the birth of Jesus and then jumps to the ascension. This is important to keep in mind when reading this chapter.
Verse 1: Signs are seen in Heaven: a woman and a dragon. The way the woman is described “clothed with sun + moon under feet + crown of twelve stars” is symbolic that “she” is “Israel” (see Genesis 37:9-10 where Joseph’s dream has similar language). John is mixing his metaphors and is speaking of the past of Israel and also Heavenly events.
Verse 2: Birth pains are mentioned which is similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:8 (see also Micah 4:10 and Isaiah 66:7-10). Israel is in the beginning of birth pains. Jesus speaks of all these signs about the fight going on amongst the powers in Heaven.
Verses 3-4: The dragon is “great + red + seven heads + ten horns + seven diadems + third of heaven stars” is symbolic of a complete world power ready to devour baby Jesus when He arrives (in verse 5). Satan has control over the rulers of this world power. There is the Spirit of Christ against the Spirit of antichrist as a pattern over and over again… Especially during the life of Jesus. Refer to God slaying beast in the sea Isaiah 27:1 because Leviathan (chaos) is also the Dragon (Satan) and the Son destroys them.
Verse 5: The birth of Christ represents the birth of His Kingdom since He is Messiah.
“She gave birth to a male child” = Birth of Jesus
“One Who is to rule all the nations” = Jesus the Messiah
“but her child was caught up to God and His throne” = Ascension of Jesus
These verses are at the highest point of the chiastic structure of Revelation and is all about revealing Jesus which is symbolic of His birth and then ascension.
Verse 6: In terms of the big picture, the Woman (Israel) flees into the wilderness and is protected after the events of 70 AD. The symbolic imagery that alludes to God provision in the desert after deliverance from Pharaoh during exodus from Egypt. The 1,260 days is the time of Jesus’ ministry which ushers in the Church Age and the time when the Gospel goes out to the world.
Jesus is Born.
Satan gathers all His spiritual forces and influenced people (“all evil hands on deck”).
Satan does not win, but Jesus escapes.
Jesus prevails and Ascends to the Father.
Verse 7: Here begins a repeat of the events of verses 1-6 along with some additional details and some progression.
Satan is defeated after all that he has done (remember the Garden of Eden).
Everything that is tied to Satan is defeated (people, angels, influence, lies, efforts, etc).
Verses 10-11: Reminds us of the 7th trumpet sound in chapter 11:15 –18. Christ’s kingdom was legally and spiritually established in Heaven’s order under glorified Jesus at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus has begun to rule. This is similar to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:9 about the “heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (See also Isaiah 13:10).
Verse 11: Jesus’ victory over sin and the powers is the means of salvation. We see a focus now on the opposition to the Witnesses and the ‘bad guys.’ This is a mirror of what was explained previously, but shifts focus to those powers that lose in the end.
Verses 12-17: Here is a repetition of information from chapters 10, 11, and the first passage of 12… the Dragon rising and trying to flood the two witnesses with lies. The witnesses are those who bow the Jesus as the Messiah. We are seeing a mirror of the chapter with the two witnesses and here it is presented with a different point of view. There is a progression of days in that the Dragon targets any of those who go to Christ and accept Christ because he failed to destroy God’s people previously. Ultimately, he will fail.
Here is an example from Scripture of not bowing to the Beast: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in the Book of Daniel) would not worship worldly authority, yet they lived in civility with others.
Another Beast arises to exercise the same authority as the first Beast and this chapter likely has Daniel 7 in mind. The second Beast is like a king/kingdom but differs from the rest exercising the same type of authority over the whole scope of the entire world system.