Chapter 19

A Woman and the Dragon

INTRODUCTION

Revelation 12 and 13 opens up a prophetic view for the Christian church, future that is from John's perspective. Much of it has been fulfilled from our perspective. Nevertheless, these chapters provide the groundwork for understanding a most critical sign of the end of the world, the Mark of the Beast. In the first of these chapters, we will first look at the conflict of the ages, and the timing involved. In part II, we'll unmask the Beast, and clearly identify it.

SCRIPTURE

The great red dragon

Rev. 12:1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

7And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down --that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.

For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

11They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

12Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

13When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. 15Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring --those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

COMMENTARY

First we need to determine, is this vision primarily symbolic, or primarily literal?

Firstly, even though an interpretation is not clearly given by the angel on all the roles, the subjects playing the various roles are clearly symbolic. Terms such as "red dragon," "earth swallowing up the river," "woman given two wings as an eagle" are obviously symbolic. And in one place, the interpretation of the dragon is provided.

We should note that even though the subjects are symbolic, the verbs (actions) may be literal (subject to reasonableness) in a symbolic vision.

Since it is a symbolic vision, we also know that to interpret the durations involved, we must use the day for a year principle.

Let's first look at the conflict in heaven in the middle of the chapter.

7And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down --that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.

For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

11They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

12Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

The identity of the enormous red dragon is clearly interpreted for us.

"9The great dragon was hurled down --that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."

The dragon is Satan. Notice that the voice from heaven calls him four different things all in one sentence:

  1. Great dragon
  2. Ancient serpent
  3. Devil
  4. Satan

The Bible uses these interchangeably to refer to this master deceiver. Note some of the following texts:

Job 26:13 By [God's] breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.

Isa. 27:1 In that [judgment] day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. (The King James Version uses the term "dragon" of the deep.)

Rev. 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

The devil is hurled to the earth after his conflict with Michael (Jesus Christ) and His angels.

Jesus said "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." (Luke 10:18)

4His [the dragon's] tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

"9The great dragon was hurled . . . to the earth, and his angels with him."

By paralleling the two, we can see that the stars being flung to the earth are the angels who were deceived by Satan and joined in his rebellion. The above verse states that a third of the angels in heaven joined Satan in his rebellion.

The Bible states that God has in the order of 10,000 times 10,000 angels (literally "myriads times myriads" of angels) or 100 million angels still loyal to him,

Dan. 7:10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

Rev. 5:11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand [myriads] times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

Since the Bible rounds off the numbers, the order of magnitude is correct, but actual number could be much higher, even up to 400 to 500 million.

That places the number of fallen angels around 50 million and possibly up to 200 million (such as that indicated in the sixth of the seven trumpets). At any rate, it’s a large number.

It is incredible, isn't it, that intelligent beings so close to God, and seeing Him on a daily basis would choose to rebel against Him?

10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

Satan is known as the accuser of the brothers, because of his role in accusing God's people before him. See the story in Job 1 and 2 of an interesting story of Satan downplaying Job's loyalty, or the story in Zechariah 3:1-3 of Satan accusing Joshua the priest.

The term "brothers" refers to God's people. The term "brothers" is used over 184 times from the book of Acts through to Revelation and the word "brother" is used 57 times. This was a common term for talking to other men back then.

Notice how God's people overcome Satan, the accuser.

11They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

We've looked at this pair before, but I think it's important to again reiterate them. Those who overcome the evil one, even to the point of death, are those who hold onto their testimony for Jesus and the word of God. The word of God is His commandments.

Rev. 1:2 [John] who testifies to everything he saw --that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Rev. 1:9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Rev. 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

Rev. 12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring --those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Rev. 14:12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

Rev. 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Rev. 22:14 Blessed are those who [keep his commandments (KJV)], that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city

The last lines that the voice from heaven states sounds a warning.

12Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

The devil knows his time is short, and he plans to wreak as much havoc as possible before his time is up.

Let's go back to the beginning of the chapter:

Rev. 12:1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

We will look more closely at the seven heads and ten horns in a later chapter, so let's move on to the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet.

Who is this woman and what does she represent?

She is pregnant and ready to deliver a male child.

It is quite obvious that the "son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter" and who "was snatched up to God and to his throne" can be none other than Jesus Christ. Speaking of the coming Messiah, the Psalmist wrote:

"You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." (Ps. 2:9)

Jesus in giving his message to the church at Thyatira, encouraged those who would hold firm and overcome by offering them a similar rulership as he would receive:

Rev. 2:27 [He who overcomes] `will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father.

And lastly referring to Jesus waging war on the nations as the rider on the white horse:

Rev. 19:15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.

The dragon stands nearby to kill Jesus as he is delivered. However, as we all know, King Herod's attempt to kill baby Jesus by killing all the babies in Bethlehem did not succeed. And eventually Jesus accomplished his mission and was taken up to heaven, where he is no longer susceptible to harm from the devil.

In trying to identify the woman, we could take her to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. And to a degree that would be partially correct. Yet after this "woman" delivers Jesus, she flees into the desert (via wings as an eagle] for 1260 days or a time, times and half a time.

6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

14The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.

Since the prophecy is a primarily symbolic one, these time periods which are identical, are 1260 years.

Mary certainly couldn't live 1260 years, could she?

Another interpretation suggests that the woman is God's true and righteous church which included Mary at the time she gave birth to the Messiah.

In contrast, in Revelation 17, we see another symbolic woman, this one representing the mother of all pagan churches, namely Babylon, Mystery Religion.

This interpretation of the woman of Revelation 12 being God's true church seems reasonable. Let's continue on.

13When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. 15Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring --those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Note that after Christ is taken to heaven, the woman or church experiences persecution. In order for it to have the best chance for survival, it flees to a desert, a desolate place.

Since the symbolic waters of Revelation 17:15 are "peoples, multitudes, nations and languages", it seems likely that the desert mentioned twice are desolate places where God's true church found safety.

Certainly, as one looks throughout the true church's history, many times the persecution of God's commandment keeping people was such that the only safety to be found was in desolate places. The amazing stories of the Waldenses and Albigenses are such an example. Another one is that of the Pilgrims who sought to worship God freely, and that were willing to suffer much loss to come to the New World and settle in what is now the United States of America.

Note the final lines of this chapter:

17Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring --those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Satan doesn't feel the need to war against those who are on his side in the great rebellion. While a number of his agents keep the world's population stirred up with war, immorality and wealth creation, that is primarily to distract them from more important and eternal aspects.

He goes off to war against those who met the criteria we studied earlier, those who obey God's commandments and hold onto the testimony of Jesus. These are the two signs of God's people. Unwavering loyalty to Jesus and obedience to God's commands.

But now we come to the great question: Who is the Beast that the dragon gives its power to, which does the devil's dirty work of persecuting God's people?

And what is its Mark?

Let's unmask the Beast!

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