The Tribulation: The Woman, The Devil, and The War in Heaven
In part 7, we witnessed the seventh trumpet sound, ending the trumpet series of judgments. Now, as we continue on in this series, we witness a great and awesome sight:
"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. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth." (Revelation 12:1-2, NIV)
We see a woman envisioned in this sight; that precludes this from being God or an angel due to the fact that the Lord or the angels he sends are always referenced as "he". The description of being "clothed in the sun" tells us that there is a radiance about this woman, while the moon being under her feet means her feet are shod with the moon; these allude to Genesis 37:9-10, where the sun and moon are symbolic of Jacob and Rachael. The 12 stars above the woman's head indicate the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), which in themselves represented the 12 Tribes of Israel . The number 12 has always represented Israel in the Old Testament, and during the Tribulation, Israel is once again under the Law, as it was in the OT. By contrast, "MYSTERY BABYLON" in Revelation 17 is depicted as being "drunk with the blood of the saints", and riding a beast; a far cry from this woman.
The woman in this vision is Israel, and she is about to give birth.
"Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His 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." (Revelation 12:3-4, NIV)
Unlike v1-2, the next two verses are pretty clear on who the dragon is: Satan. His color: red is that of blood, and the shedding of it. This is not blood shed of himself sacrificially as Jesus did, but blood shed of others by murder and carnage. Satan, as described by Jesus:
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44, NIV, emphasis mine)
The "third of the stars in heaven" refers to a third of the angels that followed Satan in his rebellion. This seems to glimpse back to a point in time where they rebelled and were cast down to the earth. That Satan is standing in front of this woman to "devour" her child means that he seeks to destroy the child she will bring forth, thus ending it's existence moments after it is born. he considers the child a threat that must be subsumed by himself. And the only true threat to Satan is anything that will remove him from his perceived position of power over the earth. In scripture, we see this played out when Herod the Great ordered the murder of all the children age 2 and younger in Bethlehem; the assault from Satan upon the infant Christ.
"She 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. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days" (Revelation 12:5-6, NIV)
This seals the identity of the Child: it is the Lord Jesus Christ, born of the seed of a woman. It is now that we realize that we are looking symbolically at several points in time for both the woman and the dragon: the beginning for both; the focal point of history where they clash, and the current moment they are in, in the Tribulation as John is seeing it revealed. The child being snatched up to heaven is the Ascension of Jesus; the woman fleeing into the desert is Israel fleeing from Satan, a foreshadowing of Revelation 13's events. 1,260 days is 3 and 1/2 years, the remainder of the Tribulation. We are seeing in this vision an abridged history of the enmity between the Devil and Israel, and ultimately the Devil and Christ:
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15, NIV)
But as the vision ends, John sees another event: one of great magnitude. And we see why he was described previously: he is removed from God's presence...
"And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The 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." (Revelation 12: 7-9, NIV)
The descriptor of "dragon" is now directly connected to Satan, identifying him as the same one in the vision. And that same dragon, Satan, along with his minions are thrown out of heaven, to the earth. As this happens, there is great rejoicing in heaven:
"Then 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. They 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. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!" (Revelation 10-12a, NIV)
But with it, a warning for those on the earth:
"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" (Revelation 12:12b, NIV)
And this should be an alarm to those reading this verse, because the earth is already being bombarded by judgments. Now, Satan and his minions, no longer free to access heaven, will take their anger out on their old enemy, man. And in specific, God's chosen nation, Israel:
"When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The 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. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth." (Revelation 12:13-16, NIV)
Satan, enraged at his swift, unexpected "departure" from God's throne room, takes his wrath out first on Israel. But The Lord intervenes for her, giving her swiftness and silence to flee to a place of safety prepared for her in the desert where God would feed and protect her until the end of the Tribulation. Satan, not willing to take "no" for an answer, sends "water" after her. Now, an educated guess drawn for the reference to the gentiles as "the sea" would lead me to think that this means a force of Gentiles pursues Israel as she flees. The term "the earth" I would normally take to mean "the land " or "Israel", but they are the ones running! More likely, it is the "wave" of persecution that will follow the people as they flee into the desert.
Yup; this is another area I'm unsure of as well. We'll have to trust God to reveal it to us at some point.
As a side note: This is yet another reason why the ENTIRE Tribulation is referred to as the time of God's wrath: Satan only enters directly into it after being cast out of heaven halfway through it. And he's not in charge of the Tribulation; GOD IS!!!
Now, Speaking of "tribulation" Satan then turns his attentions on those that have accepted Christ as their saviour:
"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." (Revelation 12:17, NIV)
Scripture may be a bit puzzling on the previous verse we looked at, but NOT on this one. It plainly states that Satan would then turn his anger and now vexation on being denied his first target to those that still cling to the Lord.
And he is about to get NASTY about it; his "masterpiece" is ready to come up onto "the Land."
In part 9, we will see the emergence of The Beast.
I bid you all peace.