The woman and the dragon
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
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A Bible Study
The "beginning of sorrows" (Matt. 24:8) is seen in the first four Seals, the "great tribulation" (Matt. 24:21) in the 5th Seal, cosmic disturbances (6th Seal), the day of the Lord commences with the breaking of the 7th Seal, the trumpet judgments are blown during the day of the Lord till the end of the "70th week," the Lord Jesus Christ returns and the "seed of the woman" is going to conquer....  And thus the "Conflict of the Ages" will be culminated.
Rev 12:1-2 - And 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; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth."The word 'sign' in verses 1 and 3 is a clue that John is seeing a symbol ( in contrast to other places where he writes, 'I saw...'). It is very clear that what is being shown to us is a graphic representation of the entities involved (not a specific description. A 'woman,' 'child,' 'dragon,' are symbols of these beings."  Note Joseph's dream (Gen. 37:9-11). The woman of course symbolizes Israel, who (vs. 2) is travailing in childbirth - referring to the entire history of the nation Israel (cf. the history of the "woman's seed" above). Note also Rom. 8:22-24.
Rev 12:3-6 - 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.The "dragon" is identified in vs. 9 as "the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world." The "third of the stars" he threw down to the earth with his tail must refer to his heavenly followers (note Isa. 9:13-15 - the "tail" here is used as an image of false prophecy, deception, lying, distorting the truth; Satan seeks to undermine God's Word by means of deception, falsehood, destroying God's people through lies - challenging God's truth - Gen. 3:1). The fundamental distinction qualitatively between God and man after the Fall is at the level of truth. God's truth involves consistency, trustworthiness, fidelity to promises - as well as being factually accurate - but also to covenants with God. When man breaks these covenants, he sides with the one who is opposed to truth - Satan. So the dragon's tail becomes the means of his attack on God's veracity. Note also that the dragon above and the "beast" of Rev. 13:1 have the same number of "heads" and "horns." The "child" is of course Jesus Christ, and being "caught up to God and His throne" tells us He is immediately under God's sovereign protection. This was a "Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron," references Psalm 2:7-9. No one and nothing will successfully persist in rebellion against God's Anointed One. God also protects Israel and does not allow His people to perish utterly.
Rev 12:7-12 - And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."Michael, as the Guardian Prince of the nation Israel, defends God's people against the adversary, especially Satan. (cf. Jude 9) "No other angelic being - not even Gabriel - is designated an archangel in Scripture. It may well be that Michael the archangel is the most exultant and powerful being ever created by God. Even Satan will be defeated by him in a war that will take place in heaven....Therefore, when Michael is brought into clear focus in the prophetic Scriptures, careful attention should be given to ther role he fulfills."  "Satan" means adversary - and he is constantly combating the success, growth and triumph of God's people , continually trying to undermine the confidence of God's people in their acceptance into God's presence. He cannot possibly win the ultimate victory - Christ already has done that. But he can and does play the role of "spoiler" in the lives of many saints.
Rev 12:13-17 - Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.Except for a difference of the wording, verse 14 is exactly the same as verse 6. So when the woman is said to be given "two wings of a great eagle" (which is understood by Jews to mean that God is protecting her) to fly into the wilderness to "her" place - it must be assumed that it is the same place as that mentioned as "a place prepared for her" in verse 6. In verse 6 she is fed for 1260 days, in verse 14 she is "nourished for a time and a times and a half a time" - both periods equaling 3½ years. It can only mean the same thing. Though these are two different periods of time, what is meant in each case is that God is providing for her, caring for her and protecting her from utterly perishing in spite of her sin. Verse 6 refers to the "wilderness" Israel was in after rejecting Jesus (John 1:11) as her Messiah and finding her house "desolate" (Matt. 23:37-39) as a result. In verses 13-17 "The time can be clearly identified as the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week when the rime of trouble (Great Tribulation) is to begin....It is at this precise point, when cast out of heaven and not longer restrained by Michael, that it is said of Satan: 'Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman (Israel) who gave birth to the male Child (Christ).' He could do so unhindered because Michael at that time had ceased his restraining ministry."  (p. 5) (To understand this more fully, please read a THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL: PROTECTOR OF ISRAEL, RESTRAINER OF THE ANTICHRIST.) This shows the incredible measure of God's faithfulness as His "chosen" people demonstrate such waywardness. After Israel had rejected her true Messiah, Paul dealt with the question, "Is God through with Israel?" in Rom. 9-11. His answer was "No." His conclusion was that God still has a purpose for the Jews and will bring them back in at the proper time. But the constant question throughout history seems to be, "What about the Jews?" Historians have a very hard time dealing with the persistent survival of the Jews when by all odds it seems they should be extinct (cf. Esther, the Holocaust, etc) - at least the world apparently would like them to be. Certainly Satan does, as he does the Church. The "great eagle" of verse 14 is a symbol of the Lord himself who will protect Israel in her "wilderness" of wandering. Is it not very ironic that the very One she has so callously rejected is He who is faithful to protect her? Amazing love. Amazing grace.
Note Dan. 7:21-27. The "horn" of vs. 21 is the Antichrist - the "Beast" (Rev. 13:7). Verse 22 is the Christ's Incarnation, His death on the Cross that resulted in the forgiveness of sins and hell's power broken. "...the saints took possession of the kingdom." (Matt. 24:14 & 28:19-20) Verse 23 - The Roman Empire and its present day systems in such countries as England and the USA. Verse 25 - This again is the "beast" of Rev. 13. The Church overcomes by Rev. 12:11. "God's program involves purging sin from His people, the earth, and His heavenly temple, casting out any recollection of what is residue in the rebellion that took place in heaven. The word of our testimony is like a sword on our lips, God's light shining forth - His Word becomes a fountain of life that continually springs forth to penetrate the darkness with light, the realm of spiritual death with life, and the lost are saved."  Our motto should be to "fight the good fight of faith." (1 Tim. 6:12) Verse 26 - The "Beast's" dominion is brought to an end. Verse 27 - (compare with vs. 22 - "took possession") "given" - "possession" referred to warfare; the "gift" is the ultimate victory of the "Conflict of the Ages." But as the gospel spreads, there is a commensurate deepening of the darkness of evil.
The closing verses of Rev. 12 show that the forces of hell will be unleashed against God's people in an unprecedented way and it will be a time of great distress. Satan will be doing everything in his power to destroy Believers as he pursues them. But God is still sovereign, as was shown in verses 5 and 6 previously. His Church (Matt. 16:18) and His angels are empowerd to resist and overcome the enemy. The imagery given here suggests that when Satan unleashes his fury, God "pulls the plug." God remains sovereign - He is the Protector of the nation Israel and His Church in the midst of their tribulations. The more the dragon sees the assistance God gives His people, the more furious he becomes. Satan will not waste his time with those who compromise their testimony and God's commandments. His onslaught will be directed against those who stand firm. Those who are seeking to "keep the faith" are the particular target of the Devil. Take comfort - because these faithful ones are also the special concern of the Father's care and protection. The promise of God is that when His people stand up to bear witness to Jesus, His Holy Spirit is with them. He not only gives us the proper words to speak - but also comforts us, gives us strength, courage, empowerment in the midst of hostility - and vindicates us.  Remember the two witnesses of Chapter 11! "At the very outset of the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist, ruling from Jerusalem, will seek to kill Jewish believers who refuse to take his mark and give him their allegiance. They will flee to the wilderness and be protected by God...Frustrated in his attempt to get at these Jewish believers, Antichrist will 'make war with the remnant of her seed (Gentile believers), which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.'"  (p. 8)
 Marvin J Rosenthal - Zion's Hope
 Jack Hayford - Living Way Ministries
 R. C. Sproul - Ligonier Ministries
 "Daniel Chapter Twelve: A Deeper Look" - Marvin Rosenthal
Zion's Fire - July-August 1999 - p. 4