For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4


Revelation 12

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

12:1.  “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

With this verse a new section begins, and we are introduced to those who will play prominent roles in the drama of the Great Tribulation. 

The first of these personages is “a woman clothed with the sun,” clearly a figure of Israel as represented by the believing remnant.  The crown of twelve stars undoubtedly refers to the twelve tribes, and their being in the form of a crown speaks of reigning.  It is the symbolic presentation of the truth that the time has come that will bring an end to  Israel’s long years of rebellion, and resultant rejection.  The day is about to dawn when she will enter into the fullness of blessing, a day which her disobedience has long delayed.  Dt 28:1-13, “... the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth.... And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shall not be beneath....”

Regarding her being “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,” the sun is a figure of Christ, the prophet’s reference to His return to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom, being, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2).  (His return to rapture His Church to heaven before the Tribulation begins, is portrayed under the figure of His coming as the “bright and morning star).  Since righteousness is here connected with that Sun, and since righteousness is a prerequisite of the Lord’s drawing near to any people, the statement “clothed with the sun,” assures us that the nation, consisting then of the believing remnant, will be, like believers of this present Church age, clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

We have noted in other studies that the moon is symbolic of corporate witness; and the stars, of individual testimony.  The fact that the moon is under the woman’s feet tells us that the privilege of corporate testimony will be restored to Israel.  She  will be again what God has always intended her to be: His witness to the nations.  Just as in Re 10:1 we have Christ portrayed as a mighty Angel with earth and sea beneath His feet, a rainbow adorning His head, and a cloud His garment, so here we have Israel presented under parallel symbolism.

12:2.  “And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”

At first glance it would seem that the reference is to the birth of Christ almost two thousand years ago, for certainly it was the “woman” Israel who then brought forth Christ, the “man child,” but a statement in Isa 66:7-8 indicates that this is not the correct interpretation of the travailing woman here in Revelation 12, for Isaiah writes, “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” 

Note the unique circumstances of this birth.  It occurred before she travailed, before her pain came.  Israel experienced no birth pangs at the Lord’s incarnation: she wasn’t even aware of His birth.  But now notice carefully Isa 66:8, “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children.”  Before her travail she brought forth a man child (Christ), but after she travailed (experienced the terrible Tribulation judgments), she brought forth her children, the believing remnant of the Tribulation.

Micah adds the further note, “Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel” (Micah 5:3).  This is further evidence that Israel’s travail is subsequent to the first advent.  God’s rejection (giving up) of Israel following their rejection of Christ, is to continue until travail (the Tribulation judgments) has produced the believing remnant.

We have noted in other studies that Israel is described as God’s son, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Ex 4:22), so that the Lord Jesus Christ, humanly speaking, is God’s Secondborn; and, humanly speaking, Israel was also the “woman” that produced these two sons.  Like every scriptural firstborn, however, that firstborn nation was rejected because of rebellious unbelief, refusal to accept the fact that blessing must come through the obedient Secondborn, Christ.  (Note the demonstration of this principle throughout Scripture: Cain and Abel; Ishmael and Isaac; Esau and Jacob, etc.).  God’s true earthly son will be the believing remnant born as a result of Israel’s travail (her Tribulation sufferings).

It is to be noted also that Scripture sometimes blends together what relates to Israel and to Christ, e.g., Hos 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt,” for Mt 2:15 makes it clear that this applies also to Christ.  It would appear that there is the same blending here in Revelation 12, for while certainly verses 4 and 5 relate to the Lord’s incarnation, the context indicates that it refers also to the attempt of the dragon, Satan, to destroy the Tribulation remnant, just as he sought to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of His incarnation.  The terrible Tribulation judgments will be Israel’s birth pangs, and out of that travail will come the believing remnant which God will acknowledge as His earthly son, the unbelieving mass of professing Israel being cast away, a spiritual “placenta” as it were, no longer needed once the child is born.

12:3.  “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”

There is no difficulty in identifying this dragon, for verse nine specifically states that he is Satan.  His terrible power is indicated in his being called “great,” and the “red” may be indicative of his deadly purpose, relentlessly pursued from age to age.  Red is the color of blood, and the life is in the blood.  As the blood of Christ is upon guilty Israel, so is there upon this dragon the blood of the millions he has brought down to death.  But red is also the color of sin, see Isa 1:18, “... though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” so that the color declares his character - he is sinful beyond our ability to comprehend.

The seven crowned heads and the ten horns of the dragon aren’t difficult to interpret, for in revealing to Daniel the course of world history, God used the figure of four beasts to portray the four great empires that would rule the world from the time He took the scepter from Israel and placed it in the hands of the Gentiles, until Christ returns to establish His millennial kingdom.  Of those kingdoms, the fourth and last, Rome, is designated as the one in which Satan’s power, as prince of this world, would reach its zenith.  It was further indicated that that fourth kingdom would cease, as it did in 476 A.D., but that it would be revived again as a ten-kingdom confederation headed up by Satan’s counterfeit of Christ, to rule the world during the Tribulation.  The ten horns on the head of the fourth beast (Dan 7:7) represent that final ten-kingdom coalition of nations, and the ten horns on the head of the great red dragon declare that the unseen power behind the thrones of earth is Satan himself, kings and rulers being merely his puppets.

It is to be noted incidentally that the reference to the dragon has no application to any creature of earth, but rather to the constellation Draco, and for a fuller discussion of this the reader is referred to The Gospel in the Stars by Seiss, published by Kregel, and for a simpler exposition God’s Voice in the Stars by Fleming, published by Loizeaux Bros.

In regard to the fourth and final empire, historians distinguish six forms of government employed in the Roman empire of the past - kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, and emperors.  Many competent exegetes are of the opinion that the seven crowned heads upon the dragon represent those six governmental forms, the seventh head representing the form of government that will be exercised in the revived Roman empire during the Tribulation.  Inasmuch as seven is the Biblical number of completeness, these seven heads assure us that the evil reign of the prince of darkness will conclude when the Lord returns to end the Tribulation, and banish him into the abyss for the duration of the Millennium.

The crowns upon those seven heads are the emblems of power, and it is significant that the crowns are upon the heads (symbols of the different governmental forms), and not upon the ten horns representing the kings or governors.  The reason is obvious.  Satan is the power behind earth’s governmental forms, the men who govern, in spite of seeming power, being merely his pawns, servants of his dark system.

The message of this third verse, then, is clear.  It is the presentation of Satan, the unseen evil power behind the world’s governments and the men who head them.

It should perhaps be stated that some see in the seven heads a picture of seven nations which have been antagonistic to Israel in the past, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, and while certainly this is possible, the first view seems the more likely.

12:4.  “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.”

There are two problems connected with this verse.  One is that of translating the symbols, e.g., the dragon’s tail, the host of heaven; and the other is that of determining whether the description is of the dragon’s activity in the past, or in the Tribulation.

In regard to the statement, “... his tail drew the third part of the stars ... and did cast them to the earth,” there are several widely held interpretations.  One school holds it to be a reference to Satan’s original rebellion when he dragged down with him those rebel angels who had espoused his cause.

Another applies it to the persecution of Israel at the hands of Antiochus Ephipanes; while a third relates it to the expulsion of Satan and his angels from heaven at the mid point of the Tribulation; and yet another connects it with the malignant activity of Satan against believers during the final three and a half years of the Tribulation.

There is less difficulty than appears however.  Since the book of Revelation is a prophecy in the more generally accepted sense of the word, i.e., the revelation of future events, it seems more reasonable to take the statement as relating to the future rather than the past.  Confirmation of this would seem to be that in chapter ten, which presents Christ as earth’s coming King, there is no reference to any past activity.  It is the future alone that is dealt with, and in regard to the child to be born out of Israel’s end time travail - the production of the believing remnant in the Tribulation - we have seen that the reference is also to an event yet future.

Consistent interpretation then indicates that the reference is to be understood as applying to Satan’s future, not past, activity.

From Isa 9:15, “... the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail,” it is clear that the dragon’s tail represents his lies, and it is not without significance that lying is so frequently mentioned in connection with Satan, e.g., Jn 8:44, “He (Satan) was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.... for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

The stars are easy to translate.  Scriptures such as Dan 12:3, “... they that turn many to righteousness (shall shine) as the stars for ever,” reveal that they represent individual witness - as the moon does corporate witness - so that Re 12:4 becomes the symbolic declaration that Satan’s lies, accepted by many in the Tribulation, as they are also today, will beget a hatred of the truth that will be expressed in persecution of believers, resulting in the martyrdom of a third of them.  “... and did cast them to the earth,” is the symbolic description of their death.

The term “one third of them” appears to be best understood in the light of Zech 13:8-9, “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die, but the third part shall be left therein.  And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them.  I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.”  This prophecy clearly refers to the Tribulation.  The division of Israel into three parts is generally understood as being that “the third part left therein” refers to the godly remnant preserved alive to enter the Millennium, while the “two parts ... cut off” refers to those who will die.  One of those two parts will consist of unbelievers, and the other, of “the stars of heaven” i.e., the believers who will be martyred.  

“... and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” The picture is of Satan (the dragon) standing before Israel (the woman) to destroy her child, but the difficulty is to determine whether “her child” in this instance is Christ at the time of His incarnation, or the believing remnant that will emerge from Israel’s Tribulation travail to enter the Millennium.

Scripture reveals that on at least one occasion God used the very same language in regard to Christ and Israel, calling them both “My son,” Hos 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  But in Mt 2:14-15 it is written, “...he (Joseph) took the young child (Jesus) ... and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord ... Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Clearly then, “her child” might be either Christ, or the believing Tribulation remnant.  It often happens in Scripture, however, that past events are but miniatures of events still future, e.g., the anarchy of the days of the Judges was followed by the reign of Saul, which was in turn followed by that of the once rejected David.  That anarchy prefigures, not only that of this present age, but also the anarchy of the coming Tribulation age.  The reign of the usurper Saul pictures the reign of the beast, while David’s exaltation to the throne foreshadows the coming exaltation of Christ.  The glory of Solomon’s reign followed the exaltation of David, as the glory of the Millennium will follow the exaltation of Christ.  When the term “her child” is considered in the light of the knowledge that past events are miniatures of those still future, and when it is remembered that God applies the term “My son” to both Christ and Israel, it seems clear that the present reference is also to both.  Out of the Tribulation, as out of Egypt in the past, will come forth Christ, the Son Who is to rule all nations; and there will come forth at the same time out of that Tribulation, as in the past out of Egypt, the godly remnant of Israel which God also calls “My son.”

It would be foolish to deny that at Christ’s first advent the dragon stood before the woman to devour her child, but it seems clear that here in Revelation the reference is to the future, and as it was in the past, so will it be again.  The dragon will attempt to devour the “son” (the believing remnant) born after her travail, as two thousand years ago he stood before her to devour the “Son” (Christ) born before her travail.

In considering the past as the shadowy revelation of the future, it is interesting to note that the dragon’s attempt to devour the child of promise goes back to the dawn of history, beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel, and continuing with the persecution of the secondborn by the firstborn, e.g., Isaac by Ishmael, Jacob by Esau, Joseph by his brethren.  Nor should we fail to note that that attempt to destroy the one individual who typified the “Son,” was sometimes accompanied by the attempt to destroy the other, the nation of Israel.  Pharaoh’s attempted destruction of Israel through the death of all the male children in the time of Moses is one such example, an attempt virtually duplicated at the time of Christ’s birth when Herod ordered the death of the children under two years of age.

12:5.  “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.”

There is no question that the reference here is to Christ, and neither is there any question that the reference to His being “brought forth” relates to His incarnation two thousand years ago, for the term “caught up unto God, and to His throne” applies only to Christ.  The believing Tribulation remnant will also rule over the other nations, but at no time will it ever have been caught up to God.  It will pass directly from earthly tribulation to earthly triumph.  It is significant therefore that there is no reference to Christ’s rejection and death.  In Revelation He is being presented as God’s King, the Lion of Judah.  What belongs to the days of His rejection and suffering, a period for ever past, would be inappropriate in connection with His coming, not to redeem, but to judge the nations and to rule them with a rod of iron.

A further significance attaches to the omission here of any reference to the period between His ascension and His return to reign.  That period is the Church age, an era now almost ended.  This silence concerning it, together with the fact that there is no reference to the Church after Revelation chapter three, would appear to further justify the belief that she will not go through the Tribulation, the omission of any reference to her in connection with these foretold Tribulation events being due to the fact that she will have been raptured to heaven before it begins.

As to why this reference to the Lord’s incarnation is inserted here, it is clearly to identify the woman as Israel.

12:6.  “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”

Some have seen in this a reference to Israel’s present dispersion among the nations, the nations being taken as “the wilderness.”  The reference to the twelve hundred and sixty days, however, shows that this interpretation is incorrect.

The prophetic year is one of three hundred and sixty days, which makes the twelve hundred and sixty day period three and a half prophetic years.  The reference is to the preservation of the believing remnant during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation.

“... where she hath a place prepared of God” is not the vague statement that might at first be assumed.

Having seen no better comment on this verse than that given by the late Dr. Tatford in his book Prophecy’s Last Word I quote him as follows:

“The child was in heaven, but His mother was left on earth to face the continued persecution of the dragon.  There is again an unnoticed parenthetical period - this time of over nineteen centuries.  Subsequent to the ascension of her Son, the woman fled into the wilderness, and the reason for her flight is revealed in verses 13 and 14 (which refer to the same flight) as the expulsion of Satan from heaven.  Our Lord’s ascension took place over 1900 years ago, but the devil’s expulsion and the woman’s flight have not yet taken place.  The intervening period is completely ignored as the seer looks on to the time of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ after the present age has closed.  The devil’s expulsion from heaven will mark the commencement of the Great Tribulation, during which, as the latter part of the chapter makes clear, Satan will endeavor to blot out the godly remnant of Israel, who will flee from his persecution.

“The woman fled into the wilderness, to a place prepared by God, carried there on ‘the wings of the great eagle’ (verse 14).  Our Lord warned the godly in Judea, when the day of trouble was about to break, to ‘flee into the mountains’ (Mt 24:16), and when persecution again threatens the inhabitants of Jerusalem, those who are faithful will take their flight from the idolatrous and blasphemous power in Judea.

“The statement that the woman’s hiding place has been prepared by God is most significant.  In the midst of Mount Seir, situated in a hollow, 2,000 feet above the Arabah, stands the ancient capital of Edom: the rock-hewn city of Petra, hidden in the mountains, and now completely uninhabited.  The only approach is by way of a very long and narrow ravine through which the river flows.  In New Bible Evidence, Sir Charles Marston identifies Petra with Pella, to which the early Christians fled for refuge when Titus besieged Jerusalem in A.D.70.  In this remote spot, protected by all manner of rock shelters, caves, and subterranean passages, they were saved from the slaughter which attended the destruction of Jerusalem.

“The narrow cleft in the rock which provides an entrance to the city gives no indication of being more than a gash in the mountains.  The whole of the city - houses, temple, and theater - is carved out of the red sandstone rock.  The great open theater would accommodate 50,000 people, and the empty dwellings would need little preparation to make them fit for habitation.  Moreover, the city has a copious water supply, and the district was once very fertile.  Obad 3; Jer 49:15,16 (the rock Petra), etc., indicate the natural strength and security of the city.

“There are not wanting indications that this is the place prepared by God for His faithful remnant.  Isaiah, for example, says: ‘Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela (Petra) in the wilderness unto the mount of the daughter of Zion ... hide the outcasts; betray not him that wandereth.  Let my outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler’ Isa 16:1-4; Ps 60.

“It would appear that, as soon as warning has been given of the impending persecution, the wealthier Jews will charter a fleet of aeroplanes (v.14) and many of the faithful remnant left in Palestine will fly to the refuge in the mountains.”

12:7.  “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,”

12:8.  “And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.”

12:9.  “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

Since Michael is almost invariably mentioned in association with Israel, his being named here reminds us that the Tribulation is a distinctively Jewish era, being in fact the last “week” or seven years of Daniel’s seventy “weeks,” those seventy “weeks” being four hundred and ninety Jewish years of three hundred sixty days each, the period in which God will complete His program to bring Israel to repentance and blessing.  Daniel was assured, “And at that time (the beginning of the Great Tribulation) shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people (Israel): and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered....” (Dan 12:1).

Satan’s present sphere of activity includes the heavens, and such Scriptures as Job 1:7 indicate that he may have access to the very presence of God.  That activity and that access, however, will be brought to an end as a result of the warfare described in the section now being considered.  Bible scholars are generally agreed that this marks the mid point of the Tribulation period, and is the beginning of the Great Tribulation, the final three and a half years of the seven, during which Satan’s permitted activity will be confined to the earth.  It will be that confinement of Satanic activity to the earth that will make the final three and a half years of the Tribulation period such a terrible time of calamity.

It is significant, as Grant points out, that he who enticed the woman with the lying assurance, “Ye shall be as gods” (Ge 3:5), is cast out of heaven by Michael whose name means Who is as God?

12:10.  “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before God day and night.” 

There is no question that heaven as well as earth has been affected by Satan’s rebellion, nor is there any question that the redemptive work of Christ embraces both, see e.g.,  Col 1:20, “It was necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens” - as in the tabernacle - “should be purified with” sacrificial blood, so must “the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these (Heb 9:23).”  As there is an interval between the payment of the redemption price, and “the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph 1:14), so, it would appear, is this expulsion of Satan from heaven the moment when the heavens experience their redemption from the defilement both of Satan’s rebellion and of his presence.

This ends Satan’s opportunity to stand before God as the accuser of the brethren.  From this point onward believers will not have to contend, as do believers of this present age, with principalities and powers in heavenly places.  Their warfare will be with an adversary (still spirit, and therefore still invisible) who, having been cast out of heaven, will then be in their midst here on earth.  This is in keeping with the distinction that exists between the Church, God’s heavenly people, and Israel, His earthly people.  For the one, the warfare is with principalities and powers in heavenly places; for the other, it will be finally with an enemy whose activity is confined to the earth.  It is only the sphere of its activity, however, that will be re­stricted: the malevolent power itself will be undiminished.

“Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ.”  The anticipatory announcement of heaven is given with the same assurance as though the event had already occurred.  Another brief three and a half years after heaven’s joyous experience of Christ’s redemptive work, and earth too will revel in the enjoyment of that work.

12:11.  “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” 

These overcomers are the brethren of verse ten, accused by Satan before God day and night.  The formula for successful Christian living is given here, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the lamb.”  Everyone redeemed by the blood of Christ will stand in heaven one day in spite of every attempt of Satan.

“... and by the word of their testimony.”  There is no such thing as a “secret believer” today.  Faith in Christ is linked with faithful confession, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Ro 10:9).

“... and they loved not their lives unto the death.”  Faith will die for Christ’s sake, counting that to be absent from the body is, “to be with Christ; which is far better” (Ph’p 1:23).

12:12.  “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.  Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

While a heaven that he will never again enter, rejoices over Satan’s expulsion, the earth to which he is expelled will experience by his very presence the most terrible woe she has ever known.  Where Satan is there are tears, sorrow, woe, and death.  And while certainly the woe will be upon literal earth and sea, the reference is undoubtedly more specifically to what the earth and sea represent: Israel and the Gentile nations.

This verse confirms that Satan is fully aware of the content of Scripture, and of his own appointed doom.  It is the knowledge that he has but three and a half years left which impels him to a frenzy of malignant activity on the earth that will make the Tribulation era the most terrible period of this planet’s sorry history.

12:13.  “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.”

Israel is the woman who brings forth the man child (Christ), and also the man child (the believing Tribulation remnant); and such Scriptures as Jer 30:7 confirm that Israel will be the special object of Satan’s wrath in the Great Tribulation, “... it (the Great Tribulation) is even the time of Jacob’s trouble.”

12:14.  “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” 

As was noted in our study of vv. 4-6, the “two wings of a great eagle” appear to be a symbolic reference to an air lift that will facilitate the flight of the Jews from the Tribulation-age persecution; and “her place” of refuge in the wilderness appears to be the ancient city of Petra, carved out of the red sandstone of the mountain, sheltered in an impregnable ravine, abandoned for almost two thousand years, but preserved by God for the protection of His people in the hour of their dire need of a hiding place from the fury of Satan.

“... a time, and times, and half a time,” is a frequently used Scriptural term designating three and a half years: time is one year; times, two years; and half a time, half a year.  The period is exactly the same as that mentioned in verse six, for it must be remembered that these are prophetic years of three-hundred and sixty days each, and three and a half such years are exactly “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”

12:15.  “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.” 

Most commentators take this flood from the serpent’s mouth to be propaganda by which he will seek to instigate the persecution of Israel, and there seems to be no reason not to accept this interpretation.  Such an interpretation, however, doesn’t exclude the equally valid suggestion that the reference may be to nations energized by Satan to attempt the destruction of Israel.

12:16.  “And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.” 

The context makes it clear that the earth is to be understood symbolically, and while it may mean the world generally, it is much more likely that the reference is to the believing remnant of Israel, or to believers in general, for the earth is the Biblical symbol of both.  For example, Isa 57:20 makes it clear that the sea represents unbelievers, so that the separation of the earth from the sea in Ge 1:9-10 may be viewed symbolically as the separation of believers from unbelievers.  It is to be noted also that the earth produced fruit as commanded by God, and few will have difficulty in seeing the analogy between the literal fruit produced by the earth, and the spiritual fruit produced by the believer, also in response to God’s command. 

We note further that when Adam sinned, God pronounced a curse, not upon the earth, but upon the ground, declaring symbolically that there is no condemnation of the believers represented by the earth.

It is significant also that in John’s glimpse of the eternal state, there was a new earth (picture of the redeemed in their new bodies), but “there was no more sea,” (Re 21:1).  There will be no unbelievers to mar the perfection of the new heaven and the new earth.

The message, then, seems to be that Tribulation-age believers, rejecting Satan’s lies, will help their persecuted brethren.  But again, we can’t dismiss the interpretation that sees the earth here as representing those nations which will be opposed to the Beast, and who will therefore give aid to those whom he seeks to  destroy.

12:17.  “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” 

It continues to be emphasized that Israel will be the special object of Satan’s hatred in the Tribulation era, particularly the believing remnant “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

“To make war,” reminds us that this is no minor assault: it is a deadly conflict in which Satan seeks the destruction of those who belong to Christ.

[Revelation 13]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough