The Woman, the Seed, and the Dragon
The Sanctions continue
Yahweh to the serpent: "I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she-he-it (indefinite pronoun) will crush ( or bruise) your head and you will strike its(her-his-its/ indefinite pronoun) heel." -Genesis 3:15.
This verse is the first promise of salvation and is therefore known by the Greek term the "Protoevangelium"= 'the first Gospel'. This verse in Hebrew uses an indefinite pronoun that can be translated she, he, or it. In the Greek Septuagint (the first translation of the Hebrew Bible into a foreign tongue and the translation used during the life of Jesus) a masculine pronoun is used (he, not it, will bruise or crush) ascribing the victory not to the woman's descendants in general but to one of her sons in particular, and therefore giving the Fathers of the Church the basis for the Messianic interpretation. But St. Jerome's Latin vulgate translation uses a feminine pronoun ('she' will bruise) and since in the text "the seed" (the Messiah) and His mother appear together, the Church has taken this text to refer to Mary to whom our Lord addressed with the title: Woman! (see John 2:4 and 19:26).
Catechism of the Catholic Church #410-411: "After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium ("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. (411) The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the "New Adam" who, because he 'became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,' makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the "new Eve." Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ's victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life."
(the wedding at Cana)"..and the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine.' Jesus said 'Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not yet come.'"-John 2:3-4
(at the foot of the Cross) "Seeing His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near her, Jesus said to His mother, 'Woman, this is your son.'" -John 19:26
The Virgin Mary's title is "Woman" because she is the promised "Woman" of Genesis 3:15
The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ to His Servant John verses 12-22
We have been using the Covenant Treaty format for our outline of the Book of Revelation because the book naturally falls into the 5-part division of the Treaty format. This format reflects the purpose of the book, which is to fulfill the Old Covenant with the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ. But it is also possible, as I mentioned in the introduction, to divide the book into 2 major sections. 1) the Bridegroom: chapters 1-11, the victory of Christ over His enemies which culminates in the blowing of the 7th Trumpet and the establishment of the New Covenant Church as His holy Temple, and the second major division 2) the Bride, chapters 12-22 which deals with the victory of the universal (catholic) New Covenant Church over her enemies which ends with the glorious establishment of the "Bride" as God's holy Temple.
This second half of John's revelation is the Apocalypse as the word was the used in the First century: the unveiling of the Bride by the Bridegroom. In this second half of John's vision what will be unveiled and revealed to John will cover much of the same revelation as the first part of the book but from a different perspective:
So this point in the prophecy is something like a new beginning, and now John, after seeing Mary, the mother of God, as the Ark of the New Covenant (Rev. 11:19-12:1) goes back to the beginning, to Mary as the symbol of the Old Covenant Church, laboring down through salvation history to give birth to the Messiah, to the birth of Jesus (and the birth of the Church) and Satan's unsuccessful attempts to destroy Jesus and the Woman (and her precious "seed" = the Church) which was promised from the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. This second part of the book will end with the victorious ascent of Christ into heaven and the victory of the Church over Satan and his "seed."
We won't renew our comparisons with the Book of Ezekiel until Revelation chapter 14. In these next two chapters the Old Testament references will be the visions and prophecies given to the Prophet Daniel. Please read Daniel chapters 2, 7, 8 and 12.
Chapter 12 begins the part 2 section of this general division: The Bride.
Please Rev. 12: 1-6 The Woman and the Dragon
Verse 1 "Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."
This is a good time to recall what Jesus told John about the visions he was to receive. Read Rev. 1:1-3. If you remember our first discussion of this passage in the chapter 1 lesson we looked at the phrase in v. 1 "He sent His angel to make it known to His servant John..."(as the New Jerusalem translation reads). The phrase in the English translation "to make it known" in the Greek uses the verb semaino which is from the root sema which means sign or mark. A more literal translation would therefore be: "He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John." Jesus tells John from the very beginning that this is going to be a Book OF SIGNS of events that are "take place very soon."(v.1) and again in verse 3 Jesus warns John "the Time is near." Indeed, John will use the word sign 7 times in chapters 12-19, revealing 3 signs in heaven (12:1,3; 15:1),and 4 on earth (13:13, 14; 16:14; 19:20).
In verse 1 John gets our attention immediately by announcing that this sign of "the Woman" is a GREAT sign! A "great sign" will only appear again in chapter 15 when the 7 angels bring the 7 plagues. The "great sign" that the woman is an important symbol is central to the understanding of the prophecy as a whole and John's message to us is that we must think carefully about the Biblical meaning of this "great "sign." In this case the Greek noun is "semeion"=sign and the central sign or symbol is a "Woman." It is interesting that the word "woman" or "women" is used 19 times in Revelation, making it almost as important a symbol as that of "the Lamb" (used 30 times).
Question: What three astronomical signs are used to describe the woman?
Answer: the sun, the moon and 12 stars. Some commentators refer to Joseph's vision in Genesis 37:9-11 when he saw his father Jacob as the sun, his mother Rachel as the moon and his brothers as 11 stars bowing down to him but I don't think this is the image John wants us to connection with. Instead I think these are genuine celestial images. The constellation Virgo is wreathed in 12 stars. They are: Pi, Nu, Beta, Sigma, Chi, Iota (these 6 stars form the Southern Hemisphere around the head of Virgo). Then there are Theta, Star 60, Delta, Star 93, Beta (the second magnitude star, and Omicron (these last 6 form the Northern Hemisphere around the head of Virgo). All these stars are visible ones that can be seen with the naked eye now and in the 1st century. This may only be a coincidence of course, and the 12 stars can stand for the 12 tribes of Israel, as most commentators suggest, but it is also interesting that the only time the constellation Virgo is "clothed" with the sun and has the moon "under her feet" is in the month that is the sign of Virgo which corresponds with the Feast of Trumpets in September (late August-mid Sept)! Remember the 7th Trumpet has just sounded and we talked about the connection with that sacred feast day in the last lesson!
Question: How is "a woman" symbolic imagery most often used biblically? Hint: see Isaiah 26:17-18; 40:1-2; ch 50; 66:6-11; Jeremiah ch 3; Lamentations ch 1; Ezekiel ch. 16; Hosea ch 1-4; Micah ch 4. Answer: In the Old Covenant "a woman" is a familiar Biblical image for the Church, the people of God and the Bride of Yahweh.
Most Protestant commentaries want to dismiss Mary as the great sign and only recognize the "Woman" as a sign of the Church. But this sign of the woman that John sees is clearly more than a symbol for the Church because he clearly identifies her as the mother of Christ in verse 5 "The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron scepter..." the same way Christ is described in Rev. 2:27 "..I myself have been given by my Father, to rule them with an iron scepter and shatter them like so many pots." Rev. 2:27 and 12:5 are references to the kingship of the Messiah from Psalms 2:9 "With an iron scepter you will break them, shatter them like so many pots."
Question: The Church has always identified this " woman clothed in the sun and standing on the moon" as Mary the mother of Jesus. This interpretation was confirmed as correct by the vision of St. Juan Diego when the Virgin Mary appeared to him at Tepiac hill in Mexico in December, 1531 "clothed in the sun and standing on the moon." Does this particular vision help us to understand in any way when John was given this revelation? Answer: It has to be after Mary's assumption into heaven, but of course we still don't have a definite date.
Verse 2 "She was pregnant, and in labor, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth." The literal translation reads in the Greek exactly like the description of Mary in Matthew 1:18, 23 : "she was found to be with child.." Which is repeated in the quote of this prophecy from Isaiah 7:14.
Question: Can you think of another connection to Isaiah chapter 7 and this Rev. 12:1-2 passage? Hint: see Isaiah 7:10-14. Answer: Twice Isaiah speaks of God giving a SIGN and that SIGN is the Virgin birth of Christ. Now I know that there is controversy over whether the Hebrew text really says "virgin" or "woman." The point is a woman giving birth is hardly a SIGN but regardless of the meaning of the Hebrew "ha almah" being "the virgin" or "the woman" the Greek translation clearly says "the virgin" (parthenos) and that was the translation used in the 1st century at the time of the birth of Christ.
Now we should also mention that this verse images Mary not only as mother of Christ but as our mother, the Church, who labors to give birth to Covenant believers. It has always been a tradition of the Church that when Jesus was born it was like light passing through glass, as St. Thomas Aquinas described the Virgin birth. Mary's virginity remained in tact and there was no pain. In John's description the woman is "crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth." Those words are echoed in Isaiah 26:17 which describes the Old Covenant Church's struggle to secure salvation for believers: "As a pregnant woman near her time of delivery writhes and cries out in her pangs, so have we been, Yahweh, in your eyes: we have been pregnant, we have writhed, but we have given birth only to wind: we have not given salvation to the earth..." Throughout her existence Israel, as the Old Covenant Church was waiting for the Messiah. From the Covenant with Abraham when a holy couple was selected the be the family from which the "holy seed"/Messiah would come, to slavery in Egypt, through the Exodus experience and the establishment of the Church at Sinai, to the Kingdom of David, the Exile in Babylon and the return, to the suffering under the Greeks and Romans, Israel was laboring to give birth to the Messiah....a birth that will yield salvation for the entire world! Mary, a daughter of the Old Covenant Church, is the perfect symbol of the Church laboring to give birth to Messiah-Jesus.
And in the midst of that struggle she is "crying aloud." This verb krazo, used in the present tense, indicated prolonged suffering. This verb has special significance in Scripture where it is generally used for oath swearing, or the solemn proclamation of God's divine revelation, or for God's servants speaking out against opposition to God's plan (see Matt.27:50; Mark 3:11; 5:7; 9:24; 10:48; 15:13; John 1:15; 7:28; 12:13, 44; Acts 19:28, 32, 34; Romans 9:27; Gal, 4:6; James 5:4; and Rev. 6:10; 7:2,10; 10:3; 14:15; 18:2, 18-19; 19:17). This time the crying aloud is prophetic. It is the essence of all prophetic revelation -to bear witness to the Christ (John 5:39, 45-46; Luke 24:25-27; Acts 3:24; 13:27) and the Church's official declaration of the Word of God, the prophecy she cried out as she labored down through the centuries to give birth.
Verse 3-4 "Then a second sign appeared in the sky: there was a huge red dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns, and each of the 7 heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that he could eat the child as soon as it was born."
Question: Who is the dragon? Hint: see verse 9
Answer: Satan. The dragon imagery links us to "the primeval serpent" (v.9), the same deceiver of Eve and the enemy of God's people. But he will not have victory over the Second Eve.
Question: Who is the Second Eve? See CCC #411
Answer: the Virgin Mary, the Woman of Genesis 3:15. And by the way, the concept of Mary as the "New Eve" goes back to the earliest years of the Church: St. Irenaeus martyred 202AD "Consequently then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying: 'Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.' Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet a virgin, she did not obey. Just as she, who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband,--for in Paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children and it was necessary that they first come to maturity before beginning to multiply,--having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race...Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith." Irenaeus, "Against Heresies"3,22,4. P. 222 The Faith of the Early Fathers vol.1.
Question: Who is it that the dragon intends to destroy?
There are 2 answers. 1). Mary's seed = Jesus and 2). the Mother Church's seed = believers in the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. Do you see this holy connection between Mary and the Church? Both are at the same time ever virgin and fruitful mother. The Church is the virgin Bride of Christ and at the same time the fruitful mother of believers.
In verse 4 "The dragon stopped in front of the woman" is perhaps better translated "took his stand before the woman." The Greek word is hesteken which means to stand. Satan knows this is the final showdown. And continuing in verse 4 the line "eat the child" is more meaningfully translated "to swallow up the child." In Hebrew the phrase "swallowing up" means to kill or to do away with and is used frequently to express Satan's seed bring suffering and destruction to God's people like Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon who tried to swallow up Jerusalem (Jer. 51:34)
With the imagery in this passage John reveals the red Dragon as the power behind the imperial thrones (he wears a royal crown) of the ancient world that have persecuted God's holy covenant people. This is the vision that was revealed to God's prophet Daniel in Daniel chapter 7. The 7 heads identify him with Daniel's vision. We will set aside the symbolism of the 10 horns and 7 crowed heads until chapter 13.
"its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground" John has already associated stars with angels which, as we have already discussed, is a familiar Biblical connection (see lesson on Rev. 1:20). Now John symbolically describes the fall of the angel Dawnstar-Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15) and the angels who went into rebellion against God with him. John gives us more clarification in verse 9: "the great Dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him." This event is also related by Peter in 2 Pet.2:4: "When angels sinned, God did not spare them: He sent them down into the underworld and consigned them to the dark Abyss to be held there until the Judgement." And Jude 1:5-13 which has relevance for our interpretation of the judgment of God on unbelieving Israel: "I should like to remind you-though you have already learnt it once and for all-that the Lord rescued the nation from Egypt, but afterwards He still destroyed the people who refused to believe Him; and the angels who did not keep to the authority they had, but left their appointed sphere, He has kept in darkness in eternal bonds until the judgement of the great Day(5-6)." ...(v.13) "like wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness is stored up for ever."
Question: Why does this passage say a third of rebellious angels fell? Is it a literal third?
Answer: We do not know that a literal third of the heavenly host fell with Satan. The third is probably symbolic for a complete but partial number and recalls the third of the Trumpet judgments (we have just had the last Trumpet blast; see 8:7-12; 9:15, 18). Then too there may be a connection to Jesus Christ as the "firstborn" or reshith in Hebrew. The "firstborn", which is a title not necessarily a birth order, is entitled to the two-thirds portion (see Deut. 21:17) of the inheritance. A 2/3rds portion is reserved for Jesus the firstborn and His Kingdom (one third fell so 2 thirds remains). Another interesting point in this passage is the courtroom language John uses. The Biblical principle of the "two witnesses" may also be involved: for every false witness (angel) of Satan who stands against the covenant, God has two angels on His side to support the Covenant.
Question: What is the Dragon/Satan's ultimate goal? Answer: The Dragon/Satan's goal is to abort the work of the Messiah and to devour and kill Him so "the Dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that he could eat the child as soon as it was born." This war between the Messiah and Satan was announced in genesis 3:15. It is the war between the two seeds, the Seed of the Woman and the seed of the Serpent. From Genesis to Revelation, from the first book to the last book of the Bible, this is the war of history. Throughout history Satan was either trying to (1) keep Jesus from being born, or to (2) kill Him as soon as He was born.
Question: Can you give me examples of this warfare down through salvation history? Start with Genesis.
Answer: Cain's killing of Abel was an attempt to destroy the precious "Seed." It was unsuccessful because Eve gave birth to Seth, the Appointed One, "in place of Abel (see Gen 4:25) and the precious "seed" was preserved in him. Satan's next tactic, which he used successfully down through history, was to corrupt Seth's seed through his descendants which resulted in the whole earth being corrupted except for one man, Seth's descendant Noah. Through Noah and his righteous son, Shem, the seed was preserved. This attack continues down through the slavery of the tribes in Egypt and the attempt of Pharaoh to destroy the "seed" through the murder of the boy children (Exodus ch. 1). Later Satan uses the same tactic to attempt to destroy the precious "Seed" through the Edomite (Idoumean in Greek) King of the Jews, Herod the Great, a "seed" of Satan, in the murder of the innocent children after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:13-18). Incidentlly, Edom means "red" and this is a Red Dragon in Rev. 12:3. (Between Egypt and Jesus there were of course many other examples including Saul's attempts to kill David to whom God gave the promise that the Messiah would come from his seed). The Dragon, of course, doesn't give up on his attempts to kill Jesus and abort God's plan for humanity. In the temptation of Jesus in the Matt, Mk, and Luke Satan has become certain of His identity. He subjects Jesus to human and demonic oppression through His entire ministry and in the end even manages to possess one of the Apostles to betray Him (John 13:2, 27). Finally, Satan uses his "seed", the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, and the Roman governor, Pilate, to orchestrate Jesus' crucifixion. But the Cross was God's plan of tricking Satan to fulfill His purposes. It was God's wisdom-"the hidden wisdom" as St. Paul writes in 1Cor 2:7-8 "It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. None of the rulers of the age recognized it; for if they had recognized it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.." In his attempt to wound "the Seed's heel", the Serpent's "head is crushed!"
Verses 5-6 "The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron scepter, and the child was taken straight up to God and to His throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had prepared a place for her to be looked after for twelve hundred and sixty days."
This is the verse that clearly identifies Mary as the woman in addition to the symbolic representation of the woman as the Church. Jesus is clearly identified by the reference to the Messianic passage from Psalms 2:9 : beginning with verse 7"I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh: He said to me, 'You are my son, today have I fathered you. Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright, the whole wide world as your possession. With an iron scepter you will break them, shatter them like so many pots."
Question: What similarity did you notice between the imagery of verse 5 with the birth of Jesus and His enthronement with that of the Psalms passage John has referenced? Answer: the Psalmist, like John, makes the Messiah's birth all one with His enthronement? It is the Ascension that was the goal of Christ's Advent. In other words, if He is fathered by God then He reigns! In spite of everything Satan has tried to do, "the Seed" is caught up to the Throne and now takes His place as the ruler of all nations "with an iron scepter" just as if He had gone from the Incarnation straight to the Throne. Satan has no power to stop Him.
"while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had prepared a place for her to be looked after for twelve hundred and sixty days."
Now the imagery moves from the "Woman" Mary and her "seed," Jesus, to imagery of the "Woman" as the Church and her "seed" the believers. As it will become apparent, the Woman's flight into the wilderness is a picture of the flight of the Judean Christians from the destruction of Jerusalem. While she is in the wilderness "the Woman" as the Church is nourished for 1,260 days which is a period equivalent to the "time, two times and half a time (3 1/2 years ) of verse 14 and symbolically linked to the 42 months/ 1,260 days of Rev. 11:2-3 and later to Rev. 13:5. So during the period of time that Satan's wrath is turned on apostate Jerusalem (see chapter 9) the Church is protected. The "Woman's" flight does not signify God's abandonment of her but instead His loving provision. Christ's faithful Bride (the New Covenant Church) is safe because "God had prepared a place for her to be looked after.." (see 2Sam 7:10; 1Chron. 17:9; John 14:2-3).
Question: John also means us to think of two other occasions when the "Woman" as an individual and the "Woman" as the Old Covenant Church was protected by flight. What were these two other occasions?
Answer: Israel's flight into the wilderness from Egypt and the flight of the Virgin Mary into Egypt to escape King Herod.
Please read 12:7-12 War in Heaven!
Verses 7-9 "Now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him."
This is an abrupt scene change. This is not a sequel to the preceding vision but a "prequel." John unveils this scene in order to explain the preceding passage and answer the question why the "Woman" Mother-Church had to flee into the wilderness. Once he has explained Satan's rebellion in verses 7-12, John will return to the theme of the flight of the Woman.
To help us with the symbolism and imagery in this chapter let's lay out the major players:
Identity of the Sign
Mary (Spouse of the Holy Spirit)- The Church
Jesus the Messiah
Protestant Commentators only want to identify the Woman as The Church but it doesn't make sense for the other signs to represent a certain individual or entity without the Woman also being a certain person as well. Their refusal to recognize Mary as the Woman is anti-Mary prejudice.
Question: Who initiates the Holy War?
Answer: Rev. 12:7: Michael, the archangel and protector of the Church and His angels. Michael is named only here in the book of Revelation, in Jude (1:9 where he is called the Archangel), and in the Old Testament book of Daniel; but he may also be the unnamed Captain of God's heavenly army (Joshua 5:13-17) who appears in several books of the Old Testament. The book of Daniel is however the principle source. In Daniel, Michael is portrayed as "the great Prince" who stands as the special protector of the people of God. War breaks out in heaven between the faithful and evil angels. Even Gabriel is unable to overcome the enemy until Michael comes to lead the battle and defeat the enemy (Dan. 10:12-13, 20-21).
Question: What is the result of this holy war in Rev. 12:7-13?
Answer: Satan and his angels are cast out of heaven in defeat. It is important to note that the Dragon and his angels wage a defensive war. The aggressors are Michael and his legions. We should not picture the Church as a city under siege by the forces of evil but rather as the Church, a great army attacking the evil forces of the enemy. It is what Jesus promised us in Matthew 16:18 "and the gates of the underworld can never overpower it (the Church)." The Church is victorious and Satan is going down to defeat.
Verse 10-12 "Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, 'Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. So let the heavens rejoice and all who live there; but for you, earth and sea, disaster is coming--because the devil has gone down to you in a rage, knowing that he has little time left."
The explanation of Michael's victory comes, as it often has in John's experience in this heavenly vision, from a loud Voice in heaven calling the heavenly assembly to praise God for His marvelous works brought through the Blood of the Lamb. This reminds us that the entire setting of John's vision is liturgical.
The result of Michael's victory over Satan is fourfold; remember four is the number of the earth. Satan is no longer prince of the earth...his dominion over the earth has ended and he has not been able to prevent God's plan for man's salvation, but not his influence and the power to do damage remains.
Question: What is the fourfold victory?
Answer: 1) Salvation: for the human race, 2) power over Satan, 3) empire: the Kingdom is established, 4) all authority for Christ the King of the Kingdom of heaven on earth = the universal Catholic Church.
Question: Who shares in Christ's victory over Satan?
Answer: The martyrs who spent their lives in the service of the Lamb. They did not die or suffer in vain but are partakers in the victory because they conquered the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb.
The phrase "even in the face of death they did not cling to life" recalls John 12:25 "anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
Now here is the question I suppose you may be asking after having read this passage:
Question: When did Satan fall from heaven? Hint: read Luke 10:17-20.
Answer: He fell, definitively, during the ministry of Christ. The climax of his fall was in the atonement, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus the Messiah to His heavenly throne. You can see the stages of this Holy War throughout the four Gospels. Have you ever noticed the frequency of demons mentioned in the Gospels? The activity of demons seems relatively rare in the Old Testament but the New Testament records numerous accounts of demonism. I counted at least 60 references to demons or demon possession in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and only 2 Old Testament references in my Exhaustive Concordance!
Question: Why is that? What made the difference?
Answer: The difference was the presence of Jesus Christ. He entered history to do battle with Satan, the great Dragon, and immediately Satan counterattacked, fighting back with all his might. When we see Jesus attacking the devil, we also see Him being given angelic assistance (Matt. 4:11; 26:53; Luke 22:43). The Archangel Michael, commanding the army of angels, led the attack in heaven as Jesus led His apostles in the war against the devil with the weapon of the Gospel message here on earth and Satan lost his place of power and fell down to earth. Now re-read Luke 10:17-20 in light of understanding the impact of Satan's fall.
Did you notice the "court room" language of Rev. 12:10-12 passage? You have the accuser (Satan) and the witnesses (the Saints), the Judge (God), and the verdict: Victory for Christ and His Saints! The Greek word in verse 11 is nikao which means "conqueror." A more literal translation would be "and they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb." This passage carries the connotation not only of a military victory but of a legal victory as well = the winning of a favorable verdict in the court of heaven. Satan, the great accuser, accused humanity before the throne of God day and night but now Christ's atonement for the sins of His people by offering Himself up as the sacrifice has resulted in their sentence of justification, of right standing in heaven's hall of justice. Their accuser has been thrown out of court, his false testimony invalidated. The very language of the Gospels supports this. The standard term for Jesus' "casting out" of the demons throughout His ministry is, as we have discussed, ekballo (ie. in Matthew: 8:16, 31; 9:33-34; 10:1, 8; 12:24, 26-28). The word ekballo is simply an intensive form of the word used repeatedly in Revelation chapter 12 for the "throwing down" of the Dragon = ballo! In Matthew 12:28 Jesus said "If I cast out demons by the Sprit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you..."
By His ministry, by the saving work of His death and resurrection, Christ triumphed over Satan and his demons (Co. 2:15). Satan has been rendered powerless (Heb. 2:14-15) and Paul was able to assure New Covenant believers in his letter to the Romans "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.." and the crowds in John's Gospel experienced the assurance of this victory in John 12:28-31 "A voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will again glorify it.' The crowd standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said 'It was an angel speaking to Him.' Jesus answered, 'It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours. 'Now the sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.'"
Question: Verse 12 ends with a warning. What is the warning?
Answer: Look out there is more to come; the devil may be defeated but his rage will be unleashed because he knows he has little time.
Question: What does the reference to "land and sea" refer in Scripture?
Answer: to Israel (people of the Land) and the sea = gentile nation or nations.
Question: What is the significance of the use of the word "disaster" or "woe?" Hint see Rev. 8:13.
Answer: This is the 3rd disaster prophesized in Rev.8:13 "In my vision I heard an eagle calling aloud as it flew high overhead, 'Disaster, disaster, disaster, on all the people on earth (lit. = people of the land) at the sound of the other three trumpets which the three angels have yet to blow!" The 7th Trumpet has sounded (Rev. 11:15) and the 3rd disaster has arrived. Satan has been "cast out" excommunicated from heaven following the Ascension of Christ having lost the heavenly Eden surrendered to him by Adam. Now his domain is the Land and the Sea and so in chapter 13 John will see 2 great Beasts in the Dragon's image coming up out of the Land and the Sea. The Sea in John's imagery will be the pagan nations and the Land, as we have seen repeatedly is Israel. The Voice from heaven is warning that both Israel and the Empire will become demonized in Satan's attempt hang on to what he has left. He only has a brief period of time left "knowing that he has little time left" to bring about the destruction of the New Israel Church while she is still connected to Old Israel Church. He will seek to unite Old Israel and pagan Rome against the Church.
A note defending a first century fulfillment for Rev. 12: The Holy War between Michael and the Dragon is seen by Futurist interpreters as a portrayal of the final battle of history at the end of the world. But it simple cannot be the future at all. It is not a battle to take place at the Second Coming. The victory over Satan according to John does not take place by means of a world shattering event at the end of history, but by means of the world shattering event that took place to change all of history: the sacrifice of the Lamb on the cross for the sins of the world! John clearly says this in Rev. 12:11. The language John uses to describe the defeat of the Dragon has nothing to do with the Second Coming but it has everything to do with the First Coming. The cosmic victory of Christ comes through the blood of Christ and the fearless proclamation of the Gospel.
Please read Rev. 12: 13-17 The Dragon Attacks the Church
Now John returns to the theme begun in verse 6: the Woman's flight from Satan (the Dragon). Rev. 12:6 "...while the Woman escaped into the desert, where God had prepared a place for her to be looked after for 1,260 days." John's point is that Satan's attack upon the Woman is a direct result of the defeat of Satan his fallen angels at the hands of Michael and his angelic army: "As soon as the dragon found himself hurled down to the earth, he sprang in pursuit of the woman.." I cannot emphasize it strongly enough that for John this is one of the most crucial points of the entire chapter: that Satan persecutes the Church because Christ defeated him!
Verses 13-14 "As soon as the dragon found himself hurled down to the earth he sprang in pursuit of the woman, the mother of the male child, but she was given a pair of the great eagle's wings to fly away from the serpent into the desert, to the place where she was to be looked after for a time, two times and half a time."
Once again we have the link to the 42months, the 1,260 days, the 3 1/2 short period of time that is a time of suffering and judgment. It is during this time that the "Woman" is safe.
Question: How is the Woman saved? Hint: read Exodus 19:4-6, Deut. 32:10-11, and 1Peter 2:9-10.
Answer: Again John uses imagery from the Exodus in which the Glory-Cloud, the glory of God clothed with angels, is described as "eagles' wings" by which God brought the children of Israel to Himself in the wilderness to form them into a holy nation, a personal possession and a kingdom of priest: "You have seen for yourselves what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you away on eagles' wings and brought you to me. So now, if you are really prepared to obey me and keep my covenant, you, out of all peoples, shall be my personal possession, for the whole world is mine. For me you shall be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation." (Ex. 19:4-5). And in 1Pet 2:9 = Peter addressing the New Covenant Church: "But your are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be a personal possession to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light."
Question: Can you think of another time when the "Woman", either individually as Mary or collectively as Mother Church was hidden and nourished by God in the wilderness?
Answer: Matt 2:13-15 Mary, Joseph and Jesus were protected from Satan's seed, King Herod, in the escape through the wilderness to Egypt, and in 67 AD the Judean New Covenant Church, obedient to Jesus' commands in Matt. 24:15-28 and led by Simon, Bishop of Jerusalem, escaped across the Jordan River into Perea, lived in caves in the desert, and was saved from the destruction of the Jewish Revolt.
Preterist commentators have always seen this passage as a literal, historical fulfillment to the escape of the Judean Church. But the Judean Church's experience is representative and illustrative of the deliverance of the universal New Covenant Church as a whole in this period of great Tribulation when the Lord "prepared a table for her in the presence of her enemies" (Psalms 23:5). United in the Eucharist they withstood and persevered the destructive wrath of Satan and continue to be victorious!
Verses 15-17 "So the serpent vomited water from his mouth, like a river, after the woman, to sweep her away in the current, but the earth came to her rescue; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river spewed from the dragon's mouth. Then the dragon was enraged with the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children, who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus."
There seems to be a play on the words "mouth" in the serpent vomiting water from his mouth and the land opening its mouth and swallowing the water. Water in Scripture often symbolizes deadly perils. We will discuss this imagery.
t is obvious that the Exodus imagery continues. The serpent's torrent of water/wrath is to remind us of the Satan's wrath in pursuit of :
The Biblical imagery is familiar: water= deadly peril and in this case a deadly river of Satan's wrath threatening to overwhelm God's people (Psalms 18:4, 16 "With Death's breakers closing in one me...He reached down from on high, snatched me up, pulled me from the watery depts.." ; Psalms 32:6; 40:2,7; 66:12; 69:1, 14; 88:17; 130:1;124:3-6; Job 22:11; 27:20; Isa. 8:5-8; 59:19; Jer. 46:7-8; 47:2; Jonah 2:6; Hos. 5:10 "I shall pour my wrath out on them like a flood.." and Isaiah 8:7-8 "the Lord will bring the mighty ,swelling waters of the River, the king of Assyria and all his glory; the River will flood up all its channels and overflow all its banks; it will flow into Judah, flooding everything and passing on; it will reach right up to the neck, and the spreading of its wings will cover the whole extent of your country, Immanuel!". This time the River isn't Assyria; it is Rome but once again Satan's plans are defeated.
Question: How is the "Woman" saved? Hint: see verse 16 which literally reads "the land" .
Answer: The Land "came to her rescue" because the land "opened its mouth and swallowed the river.." of destruction that came from Satan. "The Land" is always symbolically Israel in Scripture. The wrath of Satan was turned on to Israel (Judea). The New Covenant Church escaped Satan's power while his instruments, the Romans and their allies spend their violence on Judea. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD left the true City and the true Temple, the New Covenant Church, unharmed because the "Woman", the Bride of Christ and the Mother of New Covenant believers was safe under the shadow of the wings of Almighty God.
"Then the dragon was enraged with the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children.." Now that Satan was defeated in his plan to destroy both the Mother and her Seed, he turns in rage against the rest of her seed. We have firstborn children and siblings.
Question: Who are the first of the New Covenant children of God?
Answer: the Jews and Israelites who accepted Jesus as the Messiah: the 120 of the Upper Room (including the Apostles and disciples, the women who followed Jesus and their families-all Jews and Israelites. Then came the 3,000 Jews saved in Peter's first great homily, which we are told later grew to 5,000. The rest of her "seed" is the predominantly gentile Christian church throughout the Roman Empire.
Question: How does John identify these other children?
Answer: they keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus the Messiah. 1John 2:3-4 "In this way we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says, 'I know Him' without keeping His commandments, is a liar, and truth has no place in Him. But anyone who does keep His word, in such a one God's love truly reaches its perfection."
Satan is fighting a losing battle. Ever since Christ's ascension he has been going down in defeat. He still rages and struggles but as long the Church Militant is the Church Obedient, the Universal Church will be the Church Triumphant!
Copyright © Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.