What Happens Next? Revelation 12, The Woman and the Dragon

“In Revelation 12, John describes the beginning of a theatrical presentation he saw in the sky and on the earth. The protagonist is a sun clothed woman (God’s people); the antagonist is a dragon (the devil); the hero is the woman’s child (the Messiah). Other players move on and off the stage, all showing that throughout the ages the devil has been in combat against Christ and his people.”

Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 206). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

  • “sign” – an event which is regarded as having some special meaning—‘sign.’ εἰπὲ ἡμῖν … τί τὸ σημεῖον τῆς σῆς παρουσίας ‘tell us … what will be the sign of your coming’ Mt 24:3. In translating σημεῖον in Mt 24:3, it may be necessary in some languages to say ‘tell us what will happen that will show that you are coming’ or ‘tell us what we will see that will make us know that you are coming.’
  • σημεῖον as an event with special meaning was inevitably an unusual or even miraculous type of occurrence, and in a number of contexts σημεῖον may be rendered as ‘miracle.’ Certainly that is the referent of the term σημεῖον in Jn 2:23 (πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, θεωροῦντες αὐτοῦ τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει ‘many believed in him as they saw the signs he did’). For the Gospel of John, however, a σημεῖον is not simply a miraculous event but something which points to a reality with even greater significance. A strictly literal translation of σημεῖον as ‘sign’ might mean nothing more than a road sign or a sign on a building, and therefore in some languages σημεῖον in a context such as Jn 2:23 may be rendered as ‘a miracle with great meaning.’ – Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 442–443). New York: United Bible Societies.
  • The word spectacle (Greek sémeion) is sometimes translated “sign,” “miracle,” or “wonder,” but the idea in the New Testament always includes the idea of an event with meaning beyond itself. The presence of two great spectacles (chapters 12–14 and chapters 15–16) suggests that these are dramatic presentations that explain the consummation symbolically. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 208). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • The first drama explains the consummation from the why perspective. Why must God end the world in this way? The answers given in chapters; 12–14 are a kind of heavenly history of the ages, the ongoing conflict between God’s people and the devil looked at through a fish-eye lens. The second drama, as we will see, explains the consummation from the how perspective. There we see the end of the age through a zoom lens…In these verses, then, we receive the first part of the answer to the question, “Why is the consummation necessary?” The answer: because the devil has always abhorred God’s redeemed people and has tried to ruin God’s plan for Christ’s rule. The consummation will end this state of affairs forever. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 208, 210). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • So…think of these chapters as a heavenly play, with the characters representing something beyond themselves.
  • “heaven” – Here meaning the “first heaven” or sky.  Notice the references to the sun, moon, and stars. John witness a play, the stage is the sky, and it contains three main characters:

1) a woman clothed with the sun (protagonist)

2) a great red dragon (antagonist)

3) the woman’s child (hero)

  • “a woman clothed with the sun” – In Roman Catholic thought this woman is no other than the Virgin Mary, however, we must remember that this is not a literal woman and that may well push the metaphor too far. Her description suggests existence throughout the ages and royalty.
  • “Who is this sky woman? The only answer that fits is, “the redeemed people of God as God sees them, glorious and splendid.” Only sporadically did Old Testament Israel appear splendid and complete, for example in the days of David and Solomon. Only from time to time in the history of Christianity have God’s people been acknowledged publicly as a mighty force for good, for example in the days of the Reformation. God has always seen his redeemed people collectively as sun-clothed and star-crowned. Thus John—and we—meet the first character in the sky-drama.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 208–209). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • “great hred dragon” – Rev. 12:9 clearly identifies the antagonist in this drama as “the devil”.
  • “As God sees him throughout the ages, he is a vile dragon. In verse 4, John sees an illustration of his power: with a single mighty swish his tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky. John also sees a repulsive example of the dragon’s hatred: he stood in front of the womanso that he might devour her child the moment it was born. Throughout the ages, the drama God announced in Genesis 3:15 has been unfolding: “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” During the days of Jesus’ earthly life, the devil’s struggle to stamp him out is evident both through Herod’s slaughter of the Bethlehem babies and the crucifixion.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 209). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.

  • “seven heads” – suggesting complete wisdom
  • “ten horns” – suggesting power
  • “seven diadems” – suggesting complete blasphomy from his kingly claims

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

  • “a rod of iron” – The “iron scepter” with which this boy child will shepherd the wayward nations is mentioned in Revelation three times (here, 2:27; 19:15). Just as God always sees his people collectively and ideally as the sun-clothed woman, so he has always seen her Son ideally as the king, snatched up to God and to his throne and destined to rule the nations. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 209). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

  • “1,260 days” – Many interpreters see the 1,260 days mentioned here as a flashback to the entire church age just as the previous chapter flashed back to Christ’s original coming to earth. We see the 1,260 days, however, as a reference to great end-times persecution when believers will need God’s protection even more. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 210). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,

  • When did this occur? Some say this most likely refers to a time shortly before Christ’s return, but again, John isn’t after specific times, but is seeking to explain WHY the return of Christ is necessary.
  • Michael – “Michael has a secure place in Scripture as the only named archangel, “ruler of angels,” which is certainly his role here (Jude 9). Christ as the supreme heavenly warrior is revealed only in chapter 19. As the fourth character in the drama, Michael has a bit part. This is the only verse in all of Revelation in which he appears.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 210–211). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

  • The character of Satan is revealed in this verse along with the need for redemption.
  • “devil” – literally, “slanderer”
  • “Satan” – literally, “accuser”the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come. What Satan claims he possesses, God actually posesses.
  • See Rev. 12:3. authority of his Christ, see also, Matt. 28:18.who accuses them day and night.

10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

  • The concept of continuous satanic accusation appears here only in Scripture, although Job 1–2 shows Satan accusing Job before God. This verse does not mean that the devil has had direct personal access to the throne of God during the present age. Rather, just as the prayers of the saints on earth go up unceasingly before God (8:4), so the accusations of the devil have been going up. For reasons Scripture doesn’t develop, God has permitted into his presence the enemy’s accusations against the saints. (This is surely one important reason for the intercessory ministry of Christ in heaven, Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25.) When Satan and his angels at last are expelled from heaven, then he will find that heaven has forever closed its doors to his accusations. His response will be vicious (v. 12). – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 212). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

  • God’s people are saved and overcome Satan’s accusations solely by the redeeming power of Jesus’ blood.
  • THEO: This phrase teaches the doctrine of perseverence of the saints.“This is the language of the witness stand. In the face of pressure to turn away from faith in Christ, they did not give in. Such perseverance not only reveals the genuineness of their faith, it completely overcomes the devil.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 212–213). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

  • Satan’s overthrow means that his accusations can never again ascend to the throne of God. This is great news for all the holy angels. It is cause for you who dwell in the heavens to rejoice. What brings heavenly joy causes woe to the earth and the sea. More terrors await them from the sea beast and from the land beast that the dragon will call up. The dragon is filled with fury, for he has never before been so utterly defeated. He recognizes this as a sign: his time is short to damage God and his people, so he must act quickly with renewed energy…In these verses, then, we receive the second part of the answer to the question, “Why is the consummation necessary?” The answer: because the devil’s final expulsion has so filled him with fury that he will bring terrible woes to earth and sea. The consummation will end this state of affairs forever. Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 213). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

  • Since Satan lost his battle against Michael, he now presumes that he may have better luck on God’s people.

14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

  • Imply swift and power protection from God.
  • This is the fourth and final reference to a three and a half year period.
  • Depending on your end times view, this phrase is interpreted differently…Some, interpret it as the “great tribulation”, others as a time of great persecution under Roman rule with the destruction of Jerusalem.

15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.

16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.

17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

  • God’s perserving power over his people is an intense source of frustration for Satan.
  • If the sun-clothed, star-crowned woman stands for God’s redeemed people collectively, then the offspring are individual believers – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 214). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • In verse 11, the overcomers did so because of the “blood of the Lamb” and “the word of their testimony.” In verse 17these are defined from a slightly different perspective as those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. Those who are truly Christ’s people demonstrate it by the holy quality of what they do. The First Epistle of John expressed the same thought with the same vocabulary: “This is love for God: to obey his commands” (1 John 5:3; see also 1 Cor. 7:19). – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 215). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.Combining what is said about the “overcomers” (v. 11) and the “offspring” (v. 17), the following portrait of believers living at the end emerges:

    • They have personally applied Christ’s death to their own lives.

    • They hold to Christ’s testimony that they have life eternal by faith in him.

    • They practice lives of faithful obedience to God’s commands.

    • They do not waver in the word of their testimony when pressure comes.

    • They are willing to die for Christ’s sake.