The nation of Israel has a prominent place in God’s plan for human history. God’s promise to Abraham recorded for us in Genesis 12:1-3 reveals that all nations of the world will be blessed through the descendants of Abraham. Satan has a deep hatred of the Jewish people and had sought by many means to destroy them but God is committed to their survival and future glory. He will one day restore the kingdom to Israel, and a Jewish Messiah will rule from Jerusalem over the entire world.In Revelation 12 we have details about Israel’s trouble and survival during the tribulation period. The nation is represented by a woman with a child, who represents the Messiah.
The Woman, the Child and the Dragon
A great and wondrous sign has 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.
In Scripture a woman often symbolises a religious system or set of beliefs.
Believers in Jesus Christ are referred to as “the bride of Christ” in Revelation 19:7.
The heavenly city, the New Jerusalem is described as “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” in Revelation 21:9. Similarly, Israel is described as the wife of the Lord and often as a wife who has left her husband as we can read in Jeremiah 3.
Verse one says that this is “a great sign in heaven”, the first of seven “signs” that occur in the Book of Revelation. See also Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:13-14; Revelation 15:1; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:20. That is a further reason for understanding that the woman is not literally a woman but symbolises the nation of Israel. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that this woman represents Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, that is a wrong interpretation of the text. The text goes on by saying that this woman was clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and twelve stars on her head. This is a clear reference to Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11 which he understood to mean his father, mother and eleven brothers bowing down to him. However, John saw twelve stars on the woman’s head because these twelve stars represent all the sons of Jacob, including Joseph. Together they represent all the tribes of the nation of Israel. Therefore, this woman represents the nation of Israel.
She cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Israel has suffered much, including during the time of the birth of Jesus when she was under the rule of the Roman Empire.
The Sign of the Dragon
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.
John sees an enormous red dragon. This is a picture of the devil and he has blood shed on his mind as we can understand from the fact that the dragon is red. We read in John 8:44 that “He was a murderer from the beginning”. According to Revelation 9:11, the angel of the Abyss is a “destroyer”, as his name in Hebrew and Greek shows us. He has murdered God’s people throughout history and has used evil men to do that. He has seven heads and ten horns which shows us his involvement in the nations and governments of this world. This language reminds us of passages such as Daniel 7:7 and Daniel 8:20. In II Corinthians 4:4 he is called
The god of this world, or the god of this age….
And in Ephesians 2:2, we read that he is:
….the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
The seven crowns on his heads show satan’s power and authority over the major empires of this world. We need to always remember though, that satan and these empires function under the overall direction and sovereignty of God Himself.
His tail swept a third of the stars and flung them to the earth. These “stars” represent angels who had been influenced by satan. Satan was thrown out of God’s heaven as were these angels as we can read in Isaiah 14:12-15. The dragon planned to devour the Child. Satan used Herod at the time of the birth of Jesus to try and kill Him by having all baby boys in and near Bethlehem killed who were under the age of two. This was in accordance with a prophecy from Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:15.
The Child was Born and the Woman Fled
She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. 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.
The child born to the woman will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. This clearly identifies the child as the promised Messiah. We read of His rule over the nations in Psalm 2:7-9. In Revelation 19:15 we read that the rule of the coming Messiah will happen when He returns to earth at the end of the tribulation.
This child was snatched up to God and His throne. This very likely refers to the ascension of Jesus Christ as recorded for us in:
After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God. God has prepared a place of protection and provision during the time of tribulation for the Jewish people to flee to as we can read in:
“Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
The moment of their need to flee will be when this world leader will have entered the Holy of holies in the Temple and will have placed there what is called “the abomination that causes desolation” according to Matthew 24:15.
Satan thrown out of Heaven
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. 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! 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 Struggle in Heaven
We have already learned that satan and those angels who followed him had been thrown out of God’s heaven in Revelation 12:3-4a but it seems that they still had at least occasional access into God’s heaven as the Book of Job implies in Job 1:6.
Revelation 12:7-9 may well imply a later battle between Michael and his angels and satan and his angels. This battle may not as yet have taken place and after that battle satan will no longer have access into God’s heaven to accuse the believers before God. He will be hurled to the earth. This may well take place at the time of the tribulation when he will fully unleash his fury for he knows that he has only little time left before he will be removed from the planet.
The Secret of Victory over the Devil
At the sounding of the seventh trumpet the pronouncement was made that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ and He will reign for ever and ever as we can read in Revelation 11:15. The coming kingdom of the Messiah is the stone that crushes and destroys all the kingdoms of this world according to Daniel 2:44-45. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that will never be destroyed. Satan’s activity will be brought to an end when he is bound for a thousand years while Jesus Christ reigns on the earth according to Revelation 20:1-4.
Throughout history, the accuser, who has now been hurled to earth, has accused believers before the throne of God. But Christ is every believer’s Advocate, past and present. He has paid the penalty for all the sins of every believer, past and present with His precious blood. Heaven is now rejoicing over the fact that satan and his angels have no longer access into God’s heaven but it is a different story for the earth, for she will suffer the full extent of satan’s wrath, especially since he knows his time is limited. This helps us to understand that, yes, satan will be allowed to show forth his fury, but it will be under God’s control and when God says “no more”, it will end.
The Suffering of the Jewish People
Revelation 12: 13-17
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. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against her the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Israel has suffered greatly throughout history, having been the object of hatred by many nations and peoples. This anti-Semitism has been unleashed by satan himself, which today is on the increase, certainly in Western countries.
The Persecution is Connected to the Messiah
It is part of what Genesis 3:15 predicted where God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers”. This points to the constant enmity between the devil and the Offspring of the woman, the Messiah.
God will Protect His People
God will care for His people just as He cared for them during their years in the wilderness. His care is compared to that of an eagle who takes care of his young ones and is described for us in Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:10-12. the “wilderness” to which the Jewish people will flee is sometimes connected with the region of ancient Edom, Moab and Ammon. we read as well that God’s care of her is for a specific season, for 1260 days or three and a half years. This is the same time period that is mentioned in Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 12:7. During that time, satan tries everything in his power to destroy Israel but he is not successful.
The Purposes of satan are Clearly Revealed
He then turns his attention to “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus”. Satan begins his attack on the nation of Israel but he is thwarted in his attempts by God’s protection and intervention. He then turns his attention to the “rest of her offspring.” Since the ones mentioned in Revelation 12:17 “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus”, they must be those who have come to faith in Christ during the tribulation period. The signs in heaven, the war in heaven, the persecution of Israel, all point to the last half of the tribulation period. Satan is in a rage toward God and His people. The next chapters will reveal the tools and the people satan will use to carry out his wrath. Nothing is a surprise to God, however. It is all taking place according to His plan and will accomplish His purposes.