What does Revelation 12:1-6 mean to us now?

 

In this passage, we see God, who cares and protects, and satan, who seeks to destroy. We see God, who sends a good King, and satan, who seeks to kill that King so he can be a bad king. This passage is very clear in its Jewish imagery as it is reminiscent of the struggle of satan who refuses to submit before God, who seeks to usurp God’s rule and plan, who desires to influence and control the world for evil, and who hates righteousness and all things of God. This is also a picture of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes to earth as a child; satan vehemently seeks to prevent His birth and destroy His redemptive plan and work. The woman is often seen as Israel who is called to mother and birth righteousness and be the example of God to the world (Psalm 2:9-12). 

In this passage, we also see God, who deeply loves us and has a plan, even against the most heinous evil powers, persecutions, and disruptions of liberty and life. God is in control! As a Christian, we are a deeply and truly loved child of God; we are accepted in Him and we have a plan that is in Him; thus, we have no need or reason to freak, fear, or to stress, for He is in control and is Sovereign. Satan cannot buffet against Him nor can he buffet against us when we are in Christ. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. What do you think the images in this text are, such as a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns wearing seven crowns? Why do most Christians prefer to speculate instead of researching to see what these images meant to the original audience and language?
  1. Why do you suppose John also uses the style of a Greek play and the mythology of the Greek gods?
  1. How and why does understanding the literature and metaphors—what the 1st century Jew saw—gives us a richer meaning of what the text (God) is seeking to communicate with us today?
  1. What happens when we refuse to interpret Scripture in the light of its context and word meanings or see that some of these imageries are deeply rooted in Judaism? (Remember, we can disagree, but never divide over these non-essential issues, and always discuss in love and respect.)
  1. How do you see the relevance of this passage to your life? How would you contrast satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith?
  1. Why does the Church struggle to stay faithful? What are the things that cloud our seeing His desire to lead His church in His precepts?

 

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 12:1-6

 

The Preterist view: There are two prevailing views in the veracity of this passage. One sees it as the continual destruction of Jerusalem; Babylon represents Jerusalem as viewed from the throne room of God, while the Church is in conflict with worldly principles. The other view sees Babylon as Rome, the great persecutor of the saints, while the judgments still wage against Jerusalem. The woman is seen as the faithful Jews escaping Jerusalem. The Dragon is the beast from Daniel representing Old Testament Babylon. The birth of the child is seen as the birth of the Church, not the birth, life, or work of Christ. The Desert is the Jews’ escape, prior to the destruction. Others see this passage as the miracle of the safety of the Christians who all escaped the fall of Jerusalem. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as the middle of the Great Tribulation where the antichrist breaks his contact with Israel, shuts down the Temple, and becomes the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24. (However, this is not from the text, but speculation.) Others in this camp see this as an interlude when God is giving other descriptions of important events prior to the great judgment or outside of the timeline. The woman is seen by Catholics as Mary in her post- “assumption” (the Catholic view is that Mary is partially divine and exulted, because she is Mother of God, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.) role. Others in this camp see her as representative of the Church, or people who are faithful, or the professing Church. Male child is seen as the promise to overcome, or the Church triumphant. Others see it as Jesus and His Jewish heritage. The stars are a reference to Joseph’s dreams; others see this as the holiness of Christ. Few in this camp see the dragon as Satan; rather, they see it as a metaphor for the Roman Empire or an incarnation of the Beast of Chapter 13. The stars, in reference to the Dragon, are not considered literal stars; rather, they are seen as perhaps asteroids, airplanes, a look back to Satan’s revolt against God, or the evil political forces of the day. Devour is seen as Satan’s failed attempt to stop Christ. (It is interesting to note that their theories are very contradictory of one another.) The Desert is seen as the persecution of the Jews in the last days (with great debate on how, when, and where they will be refuges to, and concerned only with their speculations about the text). 1,260 days is seen as the last half of the Tribulation or the time of the persecution of the Jews. (It is amazing how one can read a passage and totally miss the point, or read in what one wants to see and ignore what is actually there.) 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as a metaphor and story of the birth of Christ, the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem, and the coming of His Kingdom and His ascension. Thus, this passage is not prophetic; rather, it deals with what has already taken place during our Lord’s life on earth and satan’s unsuccessful attempts to intervene and destroy Christ and His work. As with the Historicist view, the Idealists also see this passage as dealing with the internal affairs of the church and its struggle to stay faithful. The woman is faithful Israel, stars are Joseph’s dreams, the labor is the pains of the persecuted Church, The dragon is the evil political rulers, the stars are the rebellion of satan, and the child is Jesus, His birth, and the One who frustrates Satan’s plans. The Desert is God’s power, control, faithfulness, and care for the Church. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as another interlude to give us insights and information of events that have already taken place or covered prior in Revelation. Many see this as the struggle of the inward status and affairs of the church, its battle of inward corruption and missed opportunities and liberalism or apostate-ism, or becoming more secular and less spiritual. The woman is seen as the vision of the true and righteous Church, its promise, mission, and success. Giving birth is about the political struggles of the Church; the sun and stars are seen as the Romans and other outside influencers. Male child is seen as the children of the Church and the dragon is an image of Rome and/or satan or any persecutor. The stars are seen as the period of Rome in 313 A.D.—the great persecutions before the conversion of Rome. The child was snatched up is seen as the conversion of Rome in 324 A.D. and the rod of iron as the dominion of the Church afterwards.

Exegetical look into Revelation 12:1-6

 

  • Sign. Usually means something seen in the sky or an astronomical event. Here, it is an illustration, conveying an event that is unexpected and astonishing. As with most symbols and metaphors in Scripture, it is an expression with the intention of pointing to something beyond it (Luke 21:11, 25; Acts 2:19).
  • A woman. This refers to righteousness and motherhood (as Israel is portrayed as mother to the race), faith, and to the Christ. It is possibly a reference to “The Madonna,” Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was a very powerful symbolic image in ancient cultures, especially Judaism. This would have been a comfort to the struggling Messianic community. Classically, some, especially the Catholics, see this as Mary and the drama of the incarnation of Christ prior to His arrival on earth. (It is interesting to note that the Christian Scientists see this woman, her spirit, as the founder of their cult.) Is. 62:5.
  • Clothed. Referring to dignity and exalted Israel, or, to God’s glory.
  • Sun, with the moon. These are Jewish references to Abraham and Sarah, referring to the birth of the people of Israel, their hope, and blessings to come.
  • Twelve stars. This is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel and refers to Joseph’s dreams. In conjunction with the woman and context, it is clearly referencing Israel. Some see this as satan’s rebellion (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). This term or passage has nothing to do with astrology or the zodiac, other than it uses similar imagery for illustration sake but not as substance (Gen. 37:9-10; Lev. 19:26-28, 31; 20:6; Deut 18:9-14; Is. 8:19; 47:12-13; Jer. 10:1-2).
  • Pregnant. In contrast, a virgin meant someone who is faithful, and a prostitute meant someone who is pregnant and not married, denoting unfaithfulness. This is meant to contrast the heavenly with the evil, faithful and heavenly Jerusalem versus the harlot and oppressor Babylon, reviled in Israel for its destruction of the Temple, the theft of the Ark, and the captivity of the people (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 26:18-19; 54:1; Micah 5:3; John 16:21; Rev. 17:5; 21:2). 
  • Pain. As in struggle, good versus evil, our will versus God’s will, satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith. This can also mean the suffering of waiting for the Messiah to come and/or waiting for the second coming.
  • Give birth refers to the birth of the Messiah; it also denotes being saved, either as faithfulness, or being saved by Christ. It also meant for Jews, the captives of Babylon, traveling back to Israel to rebirth the nation and Jerusalem (Is. 54:1-4; 66:7-13; Micah 4:10; 5:2-3; Rev. 12:17).
  • Red dragon…. The term “dragon” literally means “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, and symbolizes monstrous evil (common in Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths), and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of satan who is the enemy of God, who is a terrifying and destructive beast, and who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. This image is not meant to terrify us, but show us how he works so we can beware and defend. This was also a metaphor for Babylon and the enemies of Israel and God. It is very unwise to read in meanings that are not there to this and other metaphors (apocryphal book “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7-9; 13:2; 20:2).
  • Seven heads. This represents domination, and also refers to astuteness and universal wisdom (Rev. 13:1).
  • Ten horns and seven crowns is the image of great power as well as battle and warfare, depicting how satan rises up to battle God, but he is sent to everlasting torment in Rev. 20:10!
  • Tail swept a third of the stars is a Jewish metaphor for the power of Heaven fighting on behalf of Israel. This also meant pouring rain and rebellion. This also referred to satan’s betrayal and rebellion and the fall of 1/3 of the angels under him. This metaphor also meant to sin or to fall into sin and be corrupted. For us, it can mean the rebellion against Christ (Judges 5:20; Is. 24:21; Dan. 12:3; Rev. 8:10).
  • He might devour her child. Satan was unable to prevent Christ’s incarnation and redemption, thus, he seeks to manipulate and destroy His followers (Matt. 2:13-18; Luke 4:28-29).
  • Gave birth …a son. Referring to deliverance, this metaphor also pointed to Augustus in Greek thought, and to a savior in Judaism and early Christianity. This theme was a great comfort to the early persecuted Church. This, in the early Church, referred to the Messianic enthronement of Jesus Christ, His birth, death, resurrection, and Lordship (John 16:21).
  • A male child. This is a perhaps a recoding of the fulfillment of Micah 5:3: Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. It refers to Christ’s incarnation, His role as Messiah and Savior, and how His triumph and accomplishments certify this fact (Is. 7:14; 9:6). As Jesus’ words state, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37-39).
  • Rule all the nations… Iron scepter. Meaning the coronation of a divine leader who will conquer evil. This doesn’t mean oppression or dictatorship; rather, it refers to a caring shepherd, and at the same time, God’s strength, authority, and right to rule (Rev. 2:27; 11:15; 19:15).
  • Child was snatched up to God. May refer to the ascension of Christ. In Greek myths, children were taken and hidden from their enemy until they were old enough, trained to defend themselves, and could go after their oppressors. The image here is that our God protects, and desires us to mature, be trained up, and be ready to defend (Psalm 2:6-9; Is. 9:6-7; Micah 5:3; Acts 1:9; 2:33; Heb. 1:1-3; 12:2).
  • Desert/Wilderness means “spiritual refuge,” and refers to how the people of God, after the Exodus, wandered for 40 years, their faithfulness and betrayal, and the grace of God. Also, their waiting for their inheritance of the Promised Land. In the Early Church, this was referred to as the period between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming. The Jews were expecting a deliverance from the Romans by a second Exodus (Hosea 2:14).
  • Taken care of means spiritual protection, as God promises His protection to a persecuted Church (Rev.13:5).
  • 1,260 days perhaps refers to the great tribulation of Daniel, but more likely is a metaphor for trials and troubles. This does not mean a literal number but a type of trouble such as persecution (Dan. 9:2-24; Rev. 11:2).

Revelation 12:1-6

Introduction 

The Women and the Dragon 

John now sees a most significant event as a women clothed in the brightness of the sun is standing on the moon and wearing a crown of stars; she is pregnant and in the pains of labor. Then, he sees a large, red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, wearing seven crowns. This dragon strikes down one third of the stars and throws them to earth, desiring to devour the baby to whom the woman is giving birth. The woman gives birth to the child who is to lead all nations, and he is taken away by God so the dragon cannot get him. The woman flees to the wilderness where she is cared for by God for a time. 

This passage is written in the style of a Greek play depicting the mythology of the Greek gods such as the struggle of Leto giving birth to Apollo and Python and the Egyptian account of their gods  Isis and Typhon as she gave birth to Horus.  John is using Jewish apocalyptic language. Understanding the literature and metaphors—what the First Century Jew saw—gives us a richer meaning of what the text (God) is seeking to communicate with us today. John uses this captivating style to show the struggle as God gives birth to Israel, Israel giving birth to Jesus, while Jesus is being opposed by Satan. This section also starts the “Third Cycle” of John’s Revelations/visions (Rev. 12:1-14:20). These images deal with spiritual warfare, the conflict of good and evil, of light and dark, rooted in history and with ramifications for the future. These passages also deal with symbolism that is deeply rooted in Judaism as well as the plan and work of our Lord and the heralding of His Second Coming. The application is our being and remaining faithful to our Lord and continuing our witness and maintaining character in the midst of persecutions. We are also called to bear Fruit in and with His light as His witnesses against the dark forces, to a corrupt and conflict- ridden world with all its trappings of contradictions and confusion (Eph. 6:10-20). 

How can you be better at remaining faithful to our Lord and continue your witness with character in the midst of the stresses of life? What about if things get real bad, such as persecution?

The Four Main Views of Revelation 9: 1-11

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as the days of the Roman conquest and destruction of Jerusalem and then the resulting spread of death and disease as the outcome. The “star” represents the leaders of this and the unbelief and apostasy of the Jews that caused it. “Five months” represents the May to September siege of Jerusalem. The “locusts” are seen as demons being let loose or being influencers of the siege, and the kink is Satan himself as the influencer. “Seek death” is seen as the application of Luke 23:27-30 and the desire to die during the Roman’s heinous activities. Women’s “long hair” is seen as transvestitism, brothels, or the women being violated. And, Apollyon is seen as the Roman Emperor who gave charge to the siege. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as a literal and supernatural plague by demons that God allows Satan to set loose just before Christ’s Second Coming. The “star” represents the “third trumpet” of Revelation 8:10. Most in this camp say this is a future Pope, and his corruption of adding apostasy to the Church. Others see this as the rise of cult groups since the 1900s, and still others see it as a comet or as Satan himself. The “Abyss” is seen as hell or another house for demons. The “locusts” represent demons or people who are possessed by them, and their effects on people during the tribulation. “Seek death” is seen as people unable to exercise their will because of demonic activity. Others see this as the effects of a foreign invasion; some have said it is helicopters, and “torment” is nerve gas. In the 80s, it was seen as Russia; now it is terrorists. What will it be next? (My money is on poodles!) The “deceptions” of the locusts are taken literally, as many believe they are helicopters or some military machine. Very probable perhaps; however this is not that the text tells us. 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as God’s judgment by the effects of nature that are distressing and relentless in damage, while we are powerless to stop it. Some see this as the internal decay of Rome that led to its downfall, or the decay of correct doctrine. The “star” represents Satan and the “locusts” represent demonic influences on the world and the Church. The “smoke” is the influence of evil clouding people’s minds, causing them to forsake righteousness. The “torment” is the loss of joy and peace as a result.  “Seek death” is seen as an extra punishment or more intense torment, as there is no relief. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as the Islamic attacks of the seventh and eighth centuries, which came like plagues and locusts, killing and destroying countless people at their pleasure. The “star” represents a symbol for a prince who has been corrupted by Muslims, or is Mohammed, or perhaps Boniface, the third Bishop of Rome who deceived the Church and caused widespread spiritual damage. The “locusts” represent the Saracens led by Mohammed who are the now Muslim Arab’s attack against Eastern Rome and its consequential terrors from 612 to 763 A.D. The Arabs came like locusts and killed like a plague. Mohammed gave the command not to tear down fruit producing trees, good crops, or to destroy goods his people could use, while other invaders ordered the “slash and burn” of it all. Those who do not have “the seal” are the corrupt church officials who either helped the invaders or sympathized with them. “Five months” represents the time of Mohammed and his “Mohammedan” reign, which was 150 years that amounts to ten times 5 months. The Catholics see the “star” as Martin Luther and the “locusts” as the Reformation. The “crowns” are seen as Islamic turbans and “long hair” as the hair of the Muslim invaders similar to that of modern Sikhs. “Breastplates of iron” is seen as the armor of the invaders, and the “stings of the tails” is seen as their fighting style of slashing rearward.

 

Exegetical look into Revelation 9: 1-6

  • The fifth angel. He sets off a plague of locusts, of devastation, perhaps commanded by demonic forces. This can be taken literally, as a plague of locusts can cause severe devastation. Locusts, in ancient times and in many parts of the world today, mean starvation for people if they come in sufficient numbers (Rev. 13:1-10). Ancient Jewish literature speaks of imprisoned, evil angels waiting their chance to unleash their revenge, inflicting chaos and mayhem.
  • A star. Ancient cultures saw stars as divinities or angels; thus, this could refer to a mighty angel. This is the “star” of Rev. 8:10, referring to a cosmic disturbance, an Angel or servant, or an instrument of God (Rev. 20:1).
  • Abyss/bottomless pit means “very deep” (the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament word for bottomless). Jewish tradition saw this as a literal, subterranean place, used for the imprisonment of evil demons and Satan, which was actually on the earth. Angels were assigned to guard it and were given keys to it. Now, with our better understanding of science and biblical interpretation, most scholars see this as an extra dimension or residence, the exact locale we cannot fathom. This is where Dante got his “Inferno” and where we get our cultural view of hell (1 Enoch). John is using this vibrant imagery not to be a literal place we can see, but rather to show that hell, as well as demons, are real. (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; Prov. 8:28; Luke 8:31; Rev. 20:1).
  • Smoke rose. John uses this imagery to make his point more powerfully.
  • The sun and sky were darkened. This is a reference to a significant astronomical or supernatural event in the form of Old Testament judgment language (Psalm 18:6-19; Isa. 13:10; 24:23; 34:4; Jer. 4:20-28; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 3:14; Zech. 14:6; Matt. 24:29-51). The question is not if or when, as many of us obsess over. Rather, it shows He will come and we had better be prepared with our attitude and mindsets! This is a most frightening prediction (Ex. 9:21-23)! 
  • Locusts refer to a terrible invasion of some sort by demons, peoples, nature, or all of the above; this is a metaphor for the elements and behavior of nature that God controls and directs (Psalm 148:1-12; Zech. 6:5). It is a prophesy from Joel, too, of the desolation that will come with the “day of the Lord.” Perhaps it is literal insects, which have terrorized farmers of all times; they eat everything and leave nothing in the wake of their desolation. They do not bother people directly, but their effect certainly does. This would strike terror to John’s readers (who lived in an agrarian society) more profoundly than an invading army of men, as the threat of a locust “invasion” was always at hand. This is reminiscent of the eighth plague in Egypt and Joel’s prediction. Locusts sometimes move in vast swarms and can easily strip away all the crops. It is reported that from 1866 to 1869, in the country of Algiers on the Mediterranean Sea, over 200,000 people died from the result of famine from a locust plague. More recently, in June of 1993, locusts were devouring the harvests of Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti. (Exodus 10:1-20; Joel 1:2-2:27).
  • Were given power. God is still in control, and sets limits upon them.
  • Scorpions refer to a spider-like insect with a poisonous barb in its tail. This is a symbol of a sometimes-used instrument of God’s judgment. Its sting can severely injure or kill a large man (1 Kings 12:11; 2 Chron. 10:14).
  • They were told not to harm the grass. A statement of comfort and of God’s grace. Even in the greatest sufferings, it is not as bad as it can or should be.
  • Did not have the seal of God. Refers to those who are immoral and depraved and who refuse to accept what Christ has done or to lead honest and proper lives. Wickedness caused by such people is reciprocal, as it is self-defeating, not only tormenting others, but harming themselves too. These were the people in the locust’s targets. Sometimes, God allows those who are wicked to suffer in this life, as we would like to see, but their real judgment is still to come. We can take comfort as they only attack those who are wicked and who refuse God’s grace (Rev. 20:11-15).
  • Torture. Do not worry; this does not concern the “servants of God,” just as God’s protection of the Israelites from His judgment upon Egypt (Ex. 8:22; 9:4, 26; 10:23; 11:7; Rev. 7:3).
  • Five months. Refers to limiting; whatever happens, it will not last long. Locusts eat their fill in a few days and then move on. It is interesting to note that the life cycle of a typical locust is about five months.
  • Sting of a scorpion. Referred to the most intense pain an ancient person could conceive of.
  • Men will seek death. Denotes that the sufferings they receive will cause them to seek death as relief (Jer. 8:3; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30).
  • Death will elude them. God will not allow relief to those who refuse Him. Their pain cannot be squelched, and it is further complicated in that they can do nothing about it, although they would be able to do by receiving Christ’s free offer (Phil. 1:23-24).

 

Revelation 9:1-11

Introduction 

The Fifth Trumpet  

General idea: The Fifth Angel now blows his trumpet, and sets in motion more judgment as a star falls from the sky, strikes the earth, and causes a great chasm to be formed. It is a bottomless pit and the angel holds the key to this foreboding shaft that leads to the furnace of judgment where no sunlight comes¾only darkness and smoke. This shaft is so powerful that when it is opened, the smoke from it darkens the sky, and the entirety of the earth sees it. Suddenly, locusts come from the furnace and descend upon the peoples of earth with devastation and judgment. They have been given power to strike, yet are directed not to harm too much, sparing the vegetation and most of the peoples. They seek out the peoples whose heart and will do not seek Christ and who refuse to accept His forgiveness and grace. These are the evil peoples who live to and for themselves and evoke evil and sufferings upon others. It is their judgment and they are deserving of it. But, God’s ever-abounding grace and love spare most of these too. So, they are tortured, while offerings of grace are offered, but not taken. They seek anything, even death, but not the love and grace of our Lord. There are malevolent and immoral, and do not care. 

The eagle, the bird of prey, and its messages of woes from previous verses are now accomplished, as “Apollyon” led them. This is the Destroyer, who is the angel of the Abyss (which is the place of absolute devastation, death, desolation, and destruction), perhaps Satan himself. His mission is to supervise the devastation of his minions, the locusts, as they swarm over the earth. 

 In this passage, the Fifth Trumpet is blown and the Plague of Locusts is released. These locusts are a horrific army armed for battle; they are foreboding and strike terror upon the people, merely by their presence. The “bottomless pit” lets loose demonic creatures on the rampage who are literally “hell bent” to kill, but only allowed to torture. Their stay and their devastation are monitored and controlled, so they will inflict only the least amount of harm, allowing for God’s redemptive work to continue, even though it has been ignored. This passage is reminiscent of Joel and the plagues of Egypt (Ex. 10:13-15; Joel, chapters 2-3).