A Study of Revelation

Chapter 12

12:1* ¶ A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
2* and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
3* Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.

Chapter 12 tells us about the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars on her head. When we study this chapter reasons will be given which will identify this woman as the complete church of God of all ages. The church being described as a woman is in agreement with other passages throughout the New Testament. The church is referred to as the “bride” of Christ in Rev. 21:9 and in Romans 7:4 the church is described as being married to Christ. Christ is the bridegroom; the church is the bride.

The church being described as a glorious woman is a contrast to the “great harlot” of chapter 17. The great harlot is symbolic of those who commit spiritual fornication, or are unfaithful to God. The glorious woman represent the true church of God, or those who are faithful to him.

Again in chapter 12 we encounter symbolism with numbers. Verse 6 says that God will feed the church for a period of 1,260 days. In verse 14 the church is described as being nourished for “time and times and half a time.” To “nourish” the church and “feed” the church would be equivalent. Therefore, the period of 1,260 days is equal to “time and times and half a time.” The “time” (1), “times” (2) and “half a time” (1/2) totals 3 1/2. If we take the Jewish calendar year of 360 days and multiply that by 3 1/2 the result is 1,260 days, or the same period of time as 3 1/2 years.

In Revelation 3 1/2 means a time of despair, confusion and longing. For the church to wander in the wilderness for a period of 1,260 days means that it is in a time of despair, suffering many persecutions, and longing for the coming of her bridegroom. This is the situation of the church today as it wanders in the wilderness of this world.

This is a likeness to the forty years of wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. This was a time of great despair for those people as they awaited entrance into the promised land of Cannan.

The difference in the situation of the children of Israel and the church today is that Israel was a physical kingdom, but the church is a spiritual kingdom. We are in a spiritual kingdom today, wandering upon this earth in a time of despair, awaiting our spiritual promised land of heaven. From this we can see that the 1,260 days, or a time, times and half a time, must represent this entire gospel age. It will last until Christ returns.

We also need to understand the relationship between 3 1/2 and 42 months. Forty-two months is also equivalent to 1,260 days or 3 1/2 years. Forty-two months multiplied by 30 days per month yields 1,260 days. Also 3 1/2 times 12 months yields 42 months. All of these numbers are used to describe the nature of the situation in which the church exists in this world today.
It is significant to note that the symbolic forty-two months is always used when referring to this gospel age as a time of physical persecution of the church (cf. 13:5, 11:2). The number “1,260” is used in connection with spiritual trials which the church must fact (12:6, 11:3). This is in keeping with the use of the number “4” to represent physical things and the number “12” to refer to spiritual matters.

With these thoughts in mind it becomes apparent that the subject of chapter 12 is the church of our Lord, represented by the glorious woman. Information is given concerning the church as it exists in the world all during this Christian dispensation. Events are pictured which lead up to the first coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the church. We are told how the church is fed and protected by God as Satan goes about seeking to destroy it. Information is also given concerning how an ungodly wold will help create a situation that will allow the true church to exist.

12:1* ¶ A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;

When chapter 12 begins “A great sign appeared in heaven” we know that we are beginning a new vision. The glorious woman is about to give birth to a man child (v. 5). This man child is Jesus, so this woman must represent that which made it possible for him to come into this world. There are two possible explanations for this symbolism. One is that this woman represents the physical mother of Jesus, the other is that she represents the Jewish system of religion which God established to maintain a direct line of descendants from Abraham to Jesus Christ. It becomes clear when we study the context of this chapter that we can eliminate Mary, the physical mother of Jesus, therefore we must conclude that this woman represents the Jewish system of religion, the Old Law, which was used to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah

Gal. 3:24
24* Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

Jesus is the seed of Abraham,

Gal. 3:16
16* Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Gal. 3:19 tells us that the Old Law was given because of transgressions until the seed (Jesus) should come

Gal. 3:19
19* ¶ Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

The Old Law was given to the Jews to prepare the world for the coming of Christ. The woman represents those under the Old Law, the church of the Old Testament. It is also a symbol used to represent the church of the New Testament because the woman is spoken of in verse 6 as fleeing into the wilderness after Jesus is caught up to heaven.

We know this is the proper way to see this symbol because of the fact that the woman has a crown of twelve stars upon her head. The number “12” us used to represent organized religion. The old law was given to the twelve tribes of Israel, and the New Law was given by the twelve apostles. The crown of twelve stars represents the authority of the glorious woman which was the Law God gave to bring Christ into the world.

This woman was clothed with the sun and moon under her feet. The sun and moon are often used to represent the ability to give spiritual light unto the world. This is exactly the case here. The glorious woman, which represents the church, is the light of the world today as it has been throughout the ages.

2* and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

The Old Law was given to prepare the world for Christ. This verse brings us to the time of the first coming of Christ. Just as a woman has great pain immediately prior to the birth of a baby, the world was in great need of a Messiah. The way had been prepared for CHrist, and the world needed a Savior. The Jewish system of religion was about to produce the Messiah who would be the Savior of the world.

3* Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.

The red dragon, according to verse 9, was the devil. The dragon had seven heads and ten horns. When we study chapters 13 and 17 we will discuss the meaning of these heads and horns in more detail, for our purposes here we need to know that the seven heads represent governmental powers which have controlled the world throughout the ages, and the ten horns represent kings and kingdoms which later arise in this world with great authority. In chapter 13:1 we have the beast coming out of the sea, and in chapter 17 we have the beast that carries the scarlet woman. These beasts are manifestations of the devil. They are powers which have been in force here on earth all through the history of the world and are doing the work of the devil. The devil has always used man to carry out his evil deeds and will continue to do so until the end of time. The red dragon has crowns upon his heads which represent the power and authority he uses to cause many people to follow him instead of Christ.

4* And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

The red dragon, the devil, is here pictured as destroying a third part of the stars of heaven. In Rev. 1:16 Christ is pictured as holding seven stars in his right hand. These stars represent those people who are faithful to him. “Heaven” is the symbolic reference of the dwelling place of the righteous. This is in contrast to the “earth” which represents the dwelling place of those who are in sin. The “stars of heaven” represent God’s people who live during the Christian age.

The third part of these stars are cast down to the earth. Again, this third part is not a literal number, it represents the spiritual part of man. This symbolism shows the ability of the devil to destroy the spiritual part of God’s people. Notice the devil possessed this ability to destroy the third part of man before Christ was born.

Under the Law of Moses, man lived in a state of sin because he could not obtain forgiveness under the law unless he lived it perfectly. Therefore, as long as the Law of Moses was in force, the devil could destroy the spiritual part of God’s people. This is why he stood before the glorious woman seeking to devour Christ as soon as he was born. He knew that Christ could provide forgiveness of sins and this would destroy his power (Heb. 2:14, 15).

The child was the Son of God with power to overcome the devil. Christ overcame the devil and was caught up to heaven (v.5). This made it possible for us to overcome the devil in our lives today.

5* And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

Jesus is the one being described here. He is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. In Rev. 19:11-16 Christ is described as riding a white horse and leading armies clothed in white. These armies clothed in white represent Christians who go forth into the world proclaiming the gospel to all nations. The rod of iron which Christ uses to rule the nations is the law which he gave man to follow, the gospel. This is what his follower must proclaim to all the world.

Another major event described in verse 5 is the ascension of Jesus to heaven where he assumes his place on God’s throne. The entire life of Jesus is covered in this one verse. The reason for this is to emphatically define the exact identity of the man child. The man child is Jesus Christ our Lord.

6* Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she *had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

The “wilderness” is a familiar symbol taken from the Old Testament. It reminds us of the forty years of the wilderness wandering by the children of Israel. The spiritual kingdom of God, the church, is in a period of time today likened unto that period of wilderness wanderings. After the Law of Moses was given on Mt. Sinai, the children of Israel entered into a forty-year period of wanderings in the wilderness before entering their promised land. The same is true with the church today. The Law of Christ was given in Jerusalem, Mt. Zion (Mic. 4:2), and the church is now wandering in this world awaiting our promised land which is heaven.

Verse 6 is a description of the church entering into that period of time comparable to the wanderings of the children of Israel in the Old Testament. During this time the church will dwell in a world of sin. It will be attacked from every side by the forces of evil.

The major difference in these times is that we are now in a spiritual kingdom rather than a physical kingdom. The physical kingdom of the Old Testament was a likeness of the spiritual kingdom which was established by Christ (Heb. 10:1):. The church wanders today in despair and dissatisfaction, yet longing and hoping for the second coming of Christ when he will take us out of this present world and our promised land of heaven.

This helps us understand why this period of time covering the entire gospel age is described as 1, 260 days. This number is another form of 3 1/2 or time, times and half a time. It is used to describe a time of despair, dissatisfaction, or longing. Therefore the number “1,260” shows what this period of time holds in store for those who seek to follow Christ. The “1,260” days is a figurative description of the entire gospel age and not to be understood as a literal period of time.

We should also note in this verse that, even though the woman fled into the wilderness, she had a place which was prepared by God where he feeds her.

This, like many other passages in Revelation, describes God’s protection and care for his people. Christians feed upon, and are nourished by, God’s Word, the Bible. As Christians wandering in this world of sin we must constantly feed upon the Word of God. It will nourish our spiritual lives and give us strength to remain faithful through the many trials we must face.

7* And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,

This verse has been subject to many different interpretations. We will not attempt in our discussion here to deal with all of the many different ideas presented, we will simply state what we believe to be the best viewpoint considering the context here in the book of Revelation.

You cannot understand verse 7 without first understanding the entire context. We must also remind ourselves that we are dealing with symbols and visions as they were given to the apostle John. This war took place as John watched and recorded the event. It is therefore our duty to study and understand what is represented by this vision of war in heaven.

Verse 9 states that the devil and his angels were cast out into the earth and verse 10 lists some things which happened because of the casting out. We know this to be true because of the phrase “Now…have come,” in verse 10. The things which came about because the devil was cast out of heaven were: (1) salvation (2) power (3) the kingdom of God (4) the authority of Christ. When did all of these things take place? The undeniable answer to that question is: at the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

Therefore, it is clear that the devil was cast out of heaven and down to earth when Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

The next question we need to answer is: What does it mean to be cast out of heaven down to earth? In Eph. 2:5, 6 the apostle Paul says:

Eph. 2:5, 6
5* even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6* and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

The “heavenly places” is the dwelling place of those who are resurrected from the grave of sin. When we become Christians, we are resurrected from a life of sin to a state of sinlessness in Christ. Those who are in this state of sinlessness, or have their sins forgiven, are those who are in the Lord’s church. The “heavenly places” is symbolic of the dwelling place of those who have their sins forgiven — the church.

The war being described here is a war whereby the devil was cast out of the dwelling place of God’s people. This simply defines the power of the devil before Jesus was resurrected compared to his power afterwards. Before Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins by his death, there was no forgiveness of sins. In that respect, Satan was in control.

The only way man could be reconciled to God was by a perfect sacrifice, and until this happened, man was in a lost state because he had no forgiveness of sins. His sins were remembered again each year because the blood of animal sacrifices could not take away sins (Heb. 10:3,4). When Jesus died on the cross, he became a sacrifice for the sins of those under the Old Law as well as for those under the New Law (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15). This is how Satan was cast out of heaven. After Jesus died, man could get complete forgiveness of his sins, and the devil would have absolutely no control over him. He was cast down. The Hebrew writer says:

Heb. 2:14
14* ¶ Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

This power of death was spiritual death because Jesus gave us spiritual life by his death.

The meaning of the context here in chapter 12 is very similar to the meaning of that of chapter 20:2 which describes Satan as being bound for one thousand years. The difference being that in this verse Satan is cast down, but 20:2 shows that he is bound by the gospel so he can never be in control again as long as man is obedient to that gospel.

This brings us to the point of defining exactly what this “war in heaven” was and with it took place. We should not think of this war as an isolated event. It is obvious that the dragon, or devil, was defeated in this war when Jesus died for our sins, but this war had been in progress since the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned. Since that time, the devil had contended with God for the souls of man and was in control as long as there was no forgiveness of sins. When Christ died, he won that war, cast the devil out of heaven, and allowed him to have spiritual control of only those who are disobedient to God’s law. Their dwelling place is represented as the earth.

8* and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.

The devil and his angels were defeated. They were cast out of heaven. This simply means that the devil no longer has any control over God’s people. The complete forgiveness of sins has been obtained. This is not to say that the devil does not tempt Christians, for he obviously does. This means that as long as a person continues to be faithful and to walk in the ways of our Lord, the devil cannot touch him. The place where God’s people dwell, where our sins are forgiven, and where the devil is not allowed is that spiritual dwelling place of God here on earth, the church of our Lord.

9* And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Until Christ made the sacrifice for our sins the devil had the ability to deceive the whole world because forgiveness of sins was not available at that time. When Jesus gave us forgiveness of sins, the devil and his angels were cast out of heaven down to earth. The earth is used to symbolize the dwelling place of the devil and his followers, in contrast to heaven which symbolizes the church, or the dwelling place of Jesus and his followers.

10* Then 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 brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

When the devil and his angels were cast out of heaven, salvation came to man. This pinpoints the time the devil was cast out of heaven as being when Christ died on the cross. This is also the time when the kingdom of God was given to man (Heb. 9:15-17), and when Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4).

The devil is spoken of as “the accuser of our brethren.” Satan had been able to do this all through Old Testament times. He accused them because their sins were unforgiven. When Christ died to forgive those sins Satan could no longer accuse them. He lost that war and is no longer able to accuse God’s people of sin because they stand sinless in his sight.

11* “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

All the people of God regardless of what age they lived in, the Old Testament age or the New Testament age. overcame the devil by the blood of the Lamb. The blood of Christ was man’s atonement for sin. This again is further proof that the “throwing down” of the devil took place when Jesus died on the cross. The devil accused “our brethren day and night” until they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. Therefore the throwing down is symbolic of man receiving the forgiveness of sins. The devil can no longer accuse God’s people of being sinners because they have obeyed his commandments and received the forgiveness of their sins.

The “word of their testimony” must refer to the gospel which was given by our Lord after his death. Many Christians have “not loved their life even when faced with death” because they have been required to give their physical lives in order to remain faithful to Christ, thereby preserving their spiritual lives.

12* ¶ “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”

Heaven is symbolic of the spiritual dwelling place of Christians — the church. The earth and sea represent the dwelling place of those who are living in sin. Paul says:

Eph. 1:3
3* ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
Eph. 1:20
20* which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Eph. 2:6
6* and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Christians are told to rejoice because they are dwelling in the spiritual heavenly place where the devil has no control over them. Those who are dwelling in the earth, or the place of spiritual wickedness are warned that the devil is among them having great wrath. The only people the devil can control are those who are sinful in the sight of God. We must emphasize that this doe not mean that the devil cannot tempt God’s people, because he can. It manes that he has no power over them as long as they remain faithful.

The devil is angry because he knows he has only a short time. Verses 13 through 17 describe the actions of the devil during this “short time,’ and let us logically interpret this “short time” as the remainder of time here on earth, or the gospel age. He will spend this time persecuting the church (v. 13) or those who keep the commandments of God (v. 17). With man’s understanding of time it is hard to realize how this could be a “short time,” but in terms of eternity, the gospel age will be short. When Christ died on the cross, the devil must have realized his doom was sealed. He will tempt all men and persecute the church until the end of time. Then, according to 20:10 he will be cast into the lake of fire where he will be tormented forever. To the devil, this indeed must be a “short time.”

13* And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.

We must once again identify this woman as the system of religion, or worship, God has designed for mankind throughout the ages. In our Christian age, this woman would be the spiritual kingdom of God, his church.

When the devil was cast out of heaven down to the earth, he immediately began to persecute the church. This woman had brought forth the man child (Jesus) who was responsible for casting Satan from heaven to earth. This destroyed the devil’s power over man by making the forgiveness of sins available.

14* But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

This verse is similar to verse 6. Just as in verse 6, this verse pictures the church as fleeing into the wilderness, which is a place prepared by God, where he will feed and protect his people.

The woman was given two wings of an eagle to fly into the wilderness. This indicates that God protects his people and has made a way for them to escape the temptations of the devil.

In Exodus 19:4 we read:

Ex. 19:4
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.

Here we have God using the same type of symbolism to describe how he delivered the children of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. This same situation applies to us today in the spiritual kingdom. God provides us a place of protection from the devil by making available the forgiveness of sins, and he nourishes us through his Word.

The symbol “time, times and half a time” is used to represent the entire gospel age. God will nourish and feed his people all through the Christian dispensation. It describes the nature of this wilderness wandering as a time of despair while longing for the spiritual promised land of heaven.

15* And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
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The serpent as mentioned in verse 13, goes out to persecute and if possible, destroy the woman, or the church. This is exactly what the devil is doing today. He is constantly at work tempting and persecuting God’s people and trying to do anything possible to cause the faithful to turn from God. The symbolism used to describe this is a flood of water proceeding out of the serpent’s mouth to carry the woman away. In 22:1, 17, the Word of God (the gospel) is referred to as the water of life proceeding out of the throne of God. Therefore, the water out of the mouth of Satan would symbolize all manners of false teachings, lyings, and deceit which he and his follower use to attack and, if it were possible, to destroy the church.

16* But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
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The earth which symbolizes the dwelling place of those people other than Christians assists in some way the church in her battle against the devil. This means that there are people who are not members of the Lord’s church who actually oppose many of the ways of the devil. This is indeed the situation we see in our world today. Many who believe in Jesus teachings vigorously oppose the ways of Satan, but they are not members of the Lord’s church because they have not rendered complete obedience to his will. They have been deceived into believing that partial obedience is acceptable.

These people actually make it easier for the true church to exist. If the world were completely void of any spirituality, other than those who are members of the church, it would be difficult for the church to exist at all because of the unrestrained evil which would prevail. Rev. 20:7-9 seems to suggest that a situation such as this might occur prior to, but very near, the second coming of Christ. Therefore, those people who are spiritually minded, yet not members of the Lord’s church, actually serve a purpose here on earth by creating a situation which will enable the true church to exist. In this manner they assist the woman by swallowing up the flood cast out by the devil.

In the book of Revelation the “earth” seems to be used symbolically to indicate those people who are spiritual in nature, yet not members of the church. This is in contrast to the “sea,” which is symbolic of the masses of people who dwell on this world who do not believe in Jesus. In other places the “sea” seems to include both of these groups. This type of symbolism becomes apparent in chapter 12 where “heaven” is used to represent the dwelling place of Christians , or the true church. (see 13:1, 11; 162, 3; 17:15.

17* So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Because the devil no longer has any control over those who are in the church he goes forth to persecute and tempt them in any way possible. Christians keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus which means it is our duty as believers to teach and preach the Word. This is how Jesus is known in the world today. John writes

1 Jn. 5:10
10* ¶ The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son.

In a world of spiritual darkness God has provided a safe place out of the world of sin. That safe place is the church

It is the Holy City, the Bride of Christ, the church of Christ, a place prepared by God for the church as she wanders in the wilderness.

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