“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days“
Chapters 12-15 view prophecy from the viewpoint of the people in the Great Tribulation (the last half of the seven years).
Seven personages appear in chapters 12-13 — a woman clothed with the sun, the red dragon, the male Child, Michael the archangel, the offspring of the woman, the beast out of the sea (the world dictator) and the beast out of the earth (the false prophet). These two chapters do not advance the chronological sequence of the book of Revelation. The chronology resumes in chapter sixteen.
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
We meet the first of seven personages in chapters 12-13 in verse one, a woman clothed with the sun. This woman is a “sign.” This is the first of a series of signs (12:3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). A sign is a symbol, of what God is about to reveal. It carries the idea of a wonder. Usually these signs are a warning of something ominous on the horizon. Though this sign appeared in heaven, the events take place on earth.
This woman symbolizes Israel (Genesis 37:9-11) who produced the Messiah. The “twelve stars” may allude to Joseph and his eleven brothers, the twelve patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The focus is still on Israel.
Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
Israel birthed Jesus in His first coming (Romans 9:5). Satan has always attacked the line of Judah, the line of the Messiah. The Devil did everything in his power to prevent the first coming of Christ. The main point is not the birth of Christ but a focus on Israel as the context from which Christ came.
Now Jesus is about to arrive in His Second Coming. Though Israel rejected Him in the first coming but in His Second Coming, they will accept Him as Messiah.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
The second “sign” is the fiery red dragon. This dragon tried to thwart the first coming of Christ 2000 years ago. This is the Devil himself acting through a world-ruler. In 12:9, John calls him Satan.
The “seven heads” represent seven empires that will rule over Israel. The 10 horns represent a 10 nation confederation with 10 kings (Daniel 2:41-45; 7:20-21, 24). These kings reign concurrently with the world ruler (Daniel 7:7; 13:1). Daniel has similar descriptions of this person (Daniel 7:7-8,24). The “diadems” represent regal power. He rules over world governments. This is a picture of a revival of the Roman Empire (13:1) which will represent 10 European governments.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
The “stars of heaven” are probably false religious leaders of Israel, “The prophets who teach lies are the tail…” (Isaiah 9). The “tail” of Satan represents his power that throws false teachers into the world scene. These false prophets are Satan’s mouthpieces for spreading his lies. Satan draws world civil leaders into to his confederacy of 10 nations by deception.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
Satan attempts to destroy the messianic line and thus negate the influence of the newborn Child (Revelation 12:4). Herod tried to destroy the Messiah when he was born by murdering babies two years and under. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to protect Jesus from Herod (Matthew 2:16-18). Satan again attempts to thwart Jesus in His Second Coming.
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
Israel brings forth a “male Child” who will rule the nations of the world with a “rod of iron.” This is Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 19:15).
And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.
The catching up of the Child to heaven is an allusion to Jesus’ ascension. John goes from the birth of Jesus to His ascension in two short verses. God puts assurances in place that the Second Coming of Christ will occur.
Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
The woman fled into the wilderness where God protected her for three and a half years. Israel will flee into the wilderness at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:16). God supernaturally protects Israel by a special power for these three and a half years.
God providentially protects His own.
Even in the face of Satanic attempts to destroy her, Israel will always exist, for God keeps His unqualified and unilateral covenants (contracts). Satan is in the business of waging war with Jesus. Satan failed to destroy Him during His first coming because He ascended to heaven. The ascension is proof of his failure to destroy Jesus. Because he failed to destroy Christ, he turns to destroy Israel but God gives special supernatural protection to Israel.
If God protects Israel, He will do the same for the church. Christians wage war on three fronts: the world, the flesh and the Devil. The Devil’s objective is to get us to act independently of God.
“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).
The strategy of Satan is to accuse Christians (Job 1:6-11) but our defense attorney, Jesus Christ, personally defends us (1 John 2:1,2). Satan wants Christians to experience anxiety, for anxious people do not trust a sovereign God (1 Peter 5:7-9). Satan willingly “gulps down” Christians who worry (1 Peter 5:8).