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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 12


Chapter 12

1.  And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

2.  She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

3. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.

4. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

5.  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

6.  and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

7.  Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,

8.  but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

9.  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

10. And 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 brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

11. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

12. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13. And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

14. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

15. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.

16. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.

17. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

The woman and her Child

The first detail that we need to pursue in this chapter is the identity of the woman mentioned… who she is and who she is not. One of the opinions, especially of those who hold to the replacement doctrine (that Israel was replaced by the church), is that the woman represents the church. I think the evidence of Scripture much more strongly suggests that she is Israel. These verses give us her history in a nutshell, her primary purpose and then, we see her in prophecy concerning the end times.

The only similarity to the representation of the woman in this passage is found in the book of Genesis in Joseph’s dream, so the history takes us back to the beginning of Israel (v.1). Please turn to Genesis 37:9: “Then (Joseph) dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said… ‘Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’” There is no question about the meaning of his dream. The sun represented his father, Jacob or Israel, the moon, his mother, and the eleven stars were his brothers. Joseph himself was the twelfth star. 

The great purpose of Israel, from the very beginning of its formation, was to bring forth a man child, Jesus Christ, according to the flesh, the Messiah. Verse 5 can refer to no one else, but the Son of God, revealed in Psalms 2: “You are my Son… I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron…” and in the depiction of the returning Christ in Revelation 19:15: “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.”

The Father saw His Son, when Israel was freed from the slavery of Egypt. Hosea knew it prophetically: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos.11:1). Matthew confirms that Hosea was referring to the Christ: Joseph “took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son” (Mt.2:14,15).

Israel’s pain in carrying out God’s purpose was very well described in verse 2… “the agony of giving birth”. The first difficulty was in the sterility of Sarah’s womb. Later, Pharaoh was an oppressor, threatening to wipe out the race by having all the male children thrown into the Nile. Haman in Persia also wanted to exterminate the Jews and Satan’s effort continued after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, when Herod sent soldiers to kill all the infants from two-years-old and under. John sees the dragon ready to devour the infant, who, finishing His earthly service, “was caught up to God and to his throne.”

See Warren Wiersbe’s comments: “Pharaoh is called a ‘dragon’ (Ez.29:3), and so is Nebuchadnezzar (Jer.51:34). At one critical point, the royal line was limited to one little boy (2 K.11:1-3). When Jesus Christ was born, Satan used King Herod to try to destroy Him (Mt.2:1-23).

In Daniel 9:24, the angel Gabriel opens a period of 490 years (70 weeks) to Daniel concerning his people. We go on to the future, of which Christ spoke in Matthew 24:15-21, concerning the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week, beginning with the Abomination of Desolation: “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Mt.24:15-16). This is strictly and literally for the Jews in Judea through verse 21. The winter refers to Judean winter and the Sabbath flight would be complicated by Jewish custom (v.20).

The reader is to understand what this prophecy means, as Christ proclaimed in verse 15, “(let the reader understand)”, and shows that the Great Tribulation begins with the Abomination of Desolation and continues for 3 ½ years: “Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Mt.24:21). There is no mistaking these events.

Daniel 11:31-32, gives the signs of the Abomination of Desolation and the Jewish apostasy: “Forces from him (the antichrist) shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Daniel writes of an end-time king of the north towards the end of chapter 11 and pinpoints the chronology in the first phrase of chapter 12: “At that time…”, and that which follows are things, which will happen in the end times. He points to “a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time…”, the Great Tribulation. In verse two, he points to resurrection day: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.”

The Hebrew chronometer has begun its countdown in Revelation 11 and in chapter 12, the first 3 ½ years are past and the last half has begun. Zechariah also prophesies of that time stating: “In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (Zec.13:8-9). It is this remnant, to which Zechariah refers in 13:1: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.”

It is the time of the reign of Antichrist (see Daniel 7:25), in which the bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out over the earth. The woman of Revelation 12, Israel, flees from the serpent and is sustained in the desert for 1,260 days (3 ½ years, Rv.12:6,14).

The dragon

The next sign, concerning a bloody red dragon, is much simpler to discern. Jesus taught that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn.8:44). He works through a deceived people to express his personality and, in the time of Christ, his emissaries were the Jews, who killed the Lord.

In the end times, he is working through a beast that we will study in the next chapter. The beast is a man, whom we commonly call the antichrist. He has seven heads and ten horns, but we will also look into those characteristics later, including the seven diadems (v.3). The tail of the dragon swept a third of the stars of heaven to the earth (v.4). These are fallen angels, whom he brought with him, when he fell from his position at some point in the beginning of time. These demon spirits are allied with the dragon in his opposition to God and His purposes.

There is a place in the heavens, in which the devil has access. We know so little of these things, but Paul speaks of a man, quite obviously himself, who was caught up to the third heaven (2 Co.12:2-7). That means that there is also a first and second heaven. In the beginning, the devil was cast out of the third heaven and cannot enter it again. However, he can still rise to the second heaven and we find him there in Job 1:6-12 and Job 2:1-7. In 1 Kings 22:19-22, a lying spirit enters and gets permission to entice Israel’s prophets.

We have come to an account in Revelation, where a war occurs in this place in heaven (v.7). The opposing generals are Michael and his angels, warring against the dragon, Satan, and his angels. Daniel 12:1 prophesies of this war, which takes place during the tribulation time. Michael, as Daniel reveals, is the angel, particularly associated with the people of Israel (Dn.10:13; 12:1).

Satan is defeated and he and his demons lost their last corner of heaven and they are thrown down to earth (v.8). The great dragon is totally defined in verse 9, so there is no doubt as to his identity. He is the “ancient serpent, who is called the devil (meaning accuser) and Satan (adversary, enemy), the deceiver of the whole world.” This is a tremendous victory, because now he has lost his place of prosecuting attorney, from which he accused “our brothers”, who are still on the earth. The angelic war threw him down and heaven is now totally free of him (Lc.4:6; Ef.2:2). It was a necessary step, in bringing about the final salvation of the Jews, the defeat of the antichrist, demonstrating the majesty of God and His Christ, as He takes the kingdom for Himself (v.10).

The battle on earth was gained by the church through the victory of Christ on the cross and because they maintained their witness (the word means martyr), even in the face of death. Christ was more to them than life (v.11). Now they rejoice in victory in heaven, while the earth goes through its greatest turmoil ever. The enemy will concentrate now on the earth’s inhabitants in a rage of anger, because he, who was cast out of heaven, now has only a short time on earth (v.12).

The dragon focuses all his attention on the Jews, whose “male child” did the work, which caused his ultimate defeat (v.13). We will look at Wiersbe’s thoughts again: “Satan thought that he had succeeded when he used Judas to betray the Lord and hand Him over to be crucified. But the Cross was actually Satan’s defeat! He has a special hatred for the Jewish people and has been the power behind anti-Semitism from the days of Pharaoh and Haman to Hitler and Stalin.”

Israel is given supernatural protection for 3 ½ years, in spite of all the dragon’s efforts. God gives her two wings to outdistance him. The serpent poured water like a flood to drown her, but the earth came to Israel’s aid. All of this will have special meaning for the people in the Great Tribulation and we can only speculate today (v.14-16). John MacArthur suggests: “God will protect Israel from Satan by hiding her in the wilderness, perhaps in the region of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, east of Palestine. Interestingly, those countries will be specifically spared from the Antichrist’s attack against the Holy Land (Dn.11:41).”

The waters could be an extraordinary flood of antisemitism in the world. Remember also that there is a tremendous number of Gentiles, who have been saved through the testimony of Jewish Christians (chapter 7, verses 9-17). At the Judgment of the Nations they will be acknowledged for their help and provision to the Jews (Mt.25:31-46). Perhaps, this is the cause of the dragon’s fury, when he turns against the woman’s offspring (v.17). The text indicates a body of Jewish believers… “who keep the commandments of God” and Gentiles… who “hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The last words, “and he stood on the sand of the sea”, are an introduction to the next chapter, as the devil prepares to carry out his next strategy.


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