A Woman Clothed with the Sun: Israel
A great sign now appears in heaven. We thus are looking at things from heaven's viewpoint, and the vision goes back in time to connect the past with the future so that we may have a clearer view of connected events. The woman (v. 1) is manifestly Israel of whom the Man-child (Christ) is born. "Clothed with the sun" intimates God's counsels as to her when in the Millennium she is clothed with the glory of "The Sun of Righteousness," the blessed Christ of God (Malachi 4:2). The moon under her feet refers to Israel as she has been in all her previous history, which is seen as the night in contrast to the day of the coming kingdom. Her proper character was to reflect the sun, as does the moon, however poorly she has done it. The crown of twelve stars on her head symbolizes the twelve tribes, all intact in the day to come. Heaven recalls her as travailing before the birth of Christ. This may refer to the pain of Israel's bondage under Roman rule at that time.
Another Sign-The Great Red Dragon
Then another sign appears in heaven (v. 3): this too is plainly a vision, not literal. The great red dragon is Satan in his intimidating character, but the seven heads and ten horns are the same as on the beast inRevelation 13:1, though here the crowns are on the seven heads, while there they are on the ten horns. The sign depicts the Roman empire as energized by Satanic power, the crowns on its heads intimating its glory and authority in past history. Crowns on the horns speak of the revived condition of that empire in the tribulation period when ten European kings (or authorities) will receive power "one hour" with the Beast (Revelation 17:12). The European Economic Community seems a clear step in the direction of this revival of the Roman Empire.
Therefore, Revelation 12:1-17 indicates Satanic power operating in the Roman Empire at the time of the birth of Christ. Satan's casting to the earth the third part of the stars of heaven (v. 4) is the strong materialistic doctrine that reduces spiritual hopes to the level of earthly-mindedness. This affected the third part, the Western nations. Satan moved that empire in opposition to Christ: He was determined to destroy the Man-child. The empire (which Pilate represented) did not realize that it was the tool of Satan for the purpose of Christ's destruction, but in all of this we see heaven's discernment of the entire matter. This vicious enmity culminated in the crucifixion of Christ, though neither His crucifixion nor His resurrection are mentioned here, but rather the fact of God's defeating the power of Satan by His setting this blessed Man on His own throne, for He will eventually rule all nations with a rod of iron (v. 5).
Then all the present dispensation of grace is passed over, from the ascension of Christ until after the Rapture, and verse 6 refers to the last 3 1/2 years of Daniel's seventieth week when Satan's enmity against Christ and against Israel will flame to its greatest height. The woman is given a place in the wilderness prepared by God for her, and there nourished for the 1260 days of the Great Tribulation. This will be true for large numbers of Israel, for the Lord warns the Jews that when they see "the abomination of desolation" standing in the holy place, that is, the idolatrous image set up there at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, they should flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:15-16). We know that some will remain and suffer greatly in the city, as we have seen in the case of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-12), but the bulk of the godly Jews will flee for their lives.
War in Heaven: Satan Thrown Down to Earth
Daniel 10:12-13; Daniel 10:20-21 bears witness that conflict is taking place continually between God's angels and Satan's host, and that Satan has certain evil spirits delegated to influence certain nations. Satan has for centuries been allowed in heaven to accuse the brethren before God, whether they are Jewish or Gentile brethren. This is seen in Job 1:6-12. In the present dispensation of grace the Church is seen to have conflict in heavenly places because of satanic opposition (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is opposing every desire of believers to learn the truth of God and to obey it. We today are enabled to gain a present victory over Satan by having on the whole armor of God and by use of "the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:10-17).
But God has decreed that at the middle of the seven year Tribulation Period Michael and his angels will wage a decisive battle in heaven against Satan and his angels, and throw them down to earth (vv. 7-9). Michael is called "your (Israel's) prince" (Daniel 10:21): he has a special connection with Israel. Therefore, his fighting will be on behalf of Israel, though Israel will suffer all the more after this time. But God will use Satan's enmity to drive Israel back to Himself through the sorrows of the Great Tribulation. Therefore, Satan's presence on earth will result in Israel's true blessing in the end. In verse 9 four designations of this arch-enemy of God are seen. He is called the dragon (the intimidator), that old serpent (the deceiver), the devil (the accuser) and Satan (the adversary). Yet all this infernal power is defeated by angels, though certainly by God's direction.
Rejoicing in Heaven
Verses 10-12 show great rejoicing in heaven, yet it is still anticipative of the end of the Great Tribulation which only begins at this time. The fact of the dragon being cast down is the portent of the very near establishment of the King- dom of God and the authority of His Christ. Satan is said here to be "the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night." He is persistent in his determination to put down the people of God. But after this he will no longer be able to practice his accusations before God: his activities will be confined to earth.
Verse 11 speaks of the brethren overcoming the devil by the blood of the Lamb, that which had fully cleansed away all their sins before God. This is the work of God done for them, in which they fully trust. When in a dream Satan accused Martin Luther of many past sins, he replied, "You might add many more to these, but write in red ink over the whole list, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin'" (l John 1:7). The brethren also overcome "by the word of their testimony: " this is the response on their part to what God has done. They were not ashamed to witness their confidence in the living God and in His Word, in the face of satanic persecution in the world. These brethren are those who suffer in the seven years of the Tribulation Period, many of whom will be martyred.
In verse 12 those in heaven rejoice that Satan is banished from there, but woe is pronounced against the inhabitors of the land (Israel) and the sea (the nations), for the devil's hateful animosity will rise to a frenzy of action because he knows his time is short. We may think that Satan's attitude is unreasonable, but this is only to be expected where there is no true faith in God. It is reported that Hitler said that if he and his party had to go out (of power), they would slam the door so hard that all the world would hear it. Such is the foolish vanity of angels or people apart from God. Satan wants to do all the harm he can, but God is simply allowing this in perfect wisdom, for He uses the evil to teach people what is the end result of their choosing Satan's authority rather than God's. The culmination of Satan's malice is the worst tribulation the world has ever seen. Yet behind all this is the stern wrath of God against the accumulated wickedness of both Jews and Gentiles, but God's wrath is seen in the perfection of calm deliberation and in absolute righteousness.
The Dragon Persecuting: The Woman Preserved
The dragon then persecutes the woman (v. 13) who symbolizes the godly of Israel, of whom Christ had been born. In this persecution Satan will employ both Gentiles and apostate Jews who follow Antichrist. Antichrist at first will be friendly toward the godly Jews, but after using them as a stepping-stone to gain power and position in the nation, he will turn against them in cruel persecution (Psalms 55:12-14; Psalms 55:20-21).
The Lord will enable the woman to quickly escape to the wilderness. The wings of a great eagle (v. 14) speak both of this speed and of God's protective care. She is sustained here for a time (one year), times (two years) and half a time (one half year) as indicated by the 1260 days of verse 6. There she is preserved from those who are Satan's willing tools. However, we have before noticed that there will be those remaining in Jerusalem who will suffer greatly. The language of these sufferers is prophetically recorded inPsalms 59:1-17.
The flood from the serpent's mouth (v. 15) is evidently the whirlwind attack of the King of the North who will come as an overflowing flood (Daniel 11:40-41), also called "the overflowing scourge" (Isaiah 28:15-18). The land opening her mouth to swallow up the flood indicates that the land of Israel will take the brunt of this attack, thus sparing the godly remnant whom God will preserve for millennial blessing, though some will be martyred and thus have a better destiny in heaven (Revelation 20:4). This martyrdom may be indicated in verse 17, for Satan will do all he can to oppress and decimate Israel, but he can do no more than God allows. This remnant is said to keep the commandments of God in contrast to Antichrist and his followers who will reject even the Old Testament. The remnant has the testimony of Jesus Christ: their faith is steadfast in the true Messiah to whom they bear witness and suffer for it.