Rev 12 is patterned on Israel's deliverance from
The dragon = Egypt (Ezek 29:3; Psa 74:13, 14; Isa 27:1; 51:9).
woman = Israel.
The man child to be destroyed = Pharaoh's fiat against all
male children (Exo 1:16).
The child caught up to God = Israel at
"They overcame by the blood of the Lamb" = deliverance through the
The woman in the wilderness = Israel in the wilderness (Ezek
20:32; Hos 2:14,19).
Provided with food there = Manna given.
the great eagle (the cherub of Rev 4:7) = "I bare you on eagles' wings" (Exo
19:4; Deu 32:11).
"The dragon persecuted (= pursued) the woman = pursuit by
"The earth swallowed up the flood" = "The earth (ie. Red Sea
quick sands) swallowed them up" (Exo 15:12).
"Since the woman is seen in heaven, she must represent Israel
('the daughter of my people') at a time before the nation was cast off and
disowned by God. She is 'clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet.'
These details are full of significance. Repeatedly, the Word of God associates
the sun with the Messiah (Psa 72:17; 19:4,5; Mal 4:2; Isa 60:1-3), whilst the
moon has special associations with the Law of Moses (eg the month and its
special feast was decided by the moon; so also was Passover and the entire
annual rota of Jewish Feasts; further, the moon derives its variable incomplete
light from the sun -- if there had been no promised Messiah the Law would have
been nugatory from the first day at Sinai).
"This woman is clothed with the sun -- her Messiah has been
made manifest The moon is under her feet -- no longer need she be subject to it,
to the Law contained in ordinances. Here then is Israel in its position of
religious privilege after the Son of God has done his glorious work as Prophet
and Sacrifice" (WRev).
TWELVE STARS: Reltd Israel (Gen 37:9-11; Jer
CH: "As the sun represents the government, and the moon
represents state religions, so the stars represent the princes of the realm (cp.
Dan 12:3). There were 12 princes who ruled Rome since the establishment of the
Imperial system by Augustus. They were the Emperors: 1. Augustus (AD 18), 2.
Tiberius (37), 3. Caligula (41), 4. Claudius (55), 5. Nero (68), 6. Galba (68),
7. Otho (68), 8. Vittelius (69), 9. Vespasian (79), 10. Titus (81), 11. Domitian
(96), 12. Nerva (98). These twelve princes, or stars, represented the authority
of Rome, at the time the Apocalypse was given. Now John sees them gracing the
'stephan' upon the head of the woman, indicating that she had attracted to
herself the authority of the state" (ApEp).
ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH: "Her child about to be born is to
'rule (shepherd!) all nations with a rod of iron.' The words are verbatim from
Psa 2 (LXX). At first glance, then, the Man Child is the Lord Jesus Christ
himself -- none other; for does not Revelation itself apply these very words to
him in his glory (Rev 19:15)? But, then, it applies them also to those who are
approved in Christ and deemed worthy to share his glory (Rev 2:26,27).
"Choice then must be made between these two interpretations.
There is good reason to discard the first and seemingly more obvious, in favour
of the other. This vision goes on to describe an attempt to destroy the Man
Child after he has been brought forth. Now Psa 2, and especially the words,
'this day have I begotten thee', can apply only to Christ after his resurrection
when he became 'the firstborn from the dead'; and after the resurrection no
enemy could or did make any attempt to destroy him as in Rev 12:4.
"The man child, then, represents the early church, those in
Christ born so to speak, out of the travail of the nation of Israel.
Appropriately, in the vision, the mother never suckled the child!" (WRev).
(CH) "In 2Co 11:2, the Ecclesia is represented as a 'chaste
virgin.' But early in the life of this virgin, trouble arose, and the seeds of
error were implanted within her (Acts 15). It took the form that Christ was not
sufficient, and that believers needed to observe the Law of Moses, as a means of
justification. This Judaising heresy was vigorously opposed by Paul. But despite
his efforts, the 'chaste virgin' became impregnated with error. The symbol
before us answers to the requirements of nature. From conception to birth is a
period of 280 days. On the prophetic basis of a day for a year, this represents
"The Ecclesia was established at the preaching of Pentecost in
AD 33. 280 years later, in the year 313, the wars of Constantine with the
assistance of pseudo-Christians, had brought him to the supreme power, and the
Church (but not the Ecclesia) was state-recognised. The man-child had been born
of the seeds of error implanted at the very beginning" (ApEp).
DRAGON: = Egypt: Eze 29:3; Psa 74:13,14; Isa 27:1;
51:9. Cp Herod's attempts on Christ's life (Mat 2:1-16). (See Lesson, Leviathan;
also see Lesson, Rahab (Egypt).)
SEVEN HEADS AND TEN HORNS: "Daniel's fourth beast (Dan
7:7,19), but with the added detail (not contradictory of Dan 7), that it has
seven heads. In other words, besides its own, it has the six heads of the three
preceding beasts. Or, seen another way, here are the great oppressors of Israel
through the centuries -- Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the
Beast in the Last Days. The ten horns suggest the Last Day phase of human
opposition to the Lamb and his people (Rev 17:12; Dan 2:44), a detail
appropriate to the concluding section of this vision" (WRev).
CH: "Cp Rev 17:10. In this description we have both a
topographical and political indication of the power referred to. It represents
firstly the seven mountains upon which Rome is built, and secondly the 'seven
kings' or forms of government by which it has been ruled. In Greek, the word
'king' relates both to the person and the government. The seven systems of
government by which Imperial Rome was ruled were: Regal; tribunitial with
consular authority; imperial; Gothic; consular; dictatorial; and decemviral"
TEN HORNS: CH: "Ultimately Rome was divided up into ten
different nationalities, providing the foundation of modern divided Europe"
SEVEN CROWNS UPON HIS HEADS: CH: "This is an important
indication of when the prophecy of this chapter would be fulfilled. It would be
before the break-up of the Roman Empire into its ten divisions, for the crowns
(authority) are found on the heads of the beast (ie, the forms of government
that ruled the empire), and not upon the horns, which represent the divided
state of Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire.
"Ct this verse with Rev 13:1. There the crowns are placed on
the horns and not the heads, indicating that the time of the fulfillment of Rev
13 was after the collapse of the empire" (ApEp).
A THIRD OF THE STARS: 1/3 of 12 stars in crown of v 1.
One of 3 major overturnings of Israel. Perhaps 70 AD.
CH: "The head of the beast was in Rome, the tail of the
beast in the east. In the west, Constantine was gathering his forces for a war
to wrest power to himself. At this time, approximately AD 300, the Empire was
divided into three sections, all of which submitted to the main authority of
Rome. Constantius, the father of Constantine, had his headquarters in York,
Britain, and his control extended over the western portion of the
"Unlike his co-rulers in the two Eastern divisions, he was
tolerant towards Christians. At his death, the army proclaimed Constantine his
successor in the imperial purple. It was the prerogative of the army to do so,
and the appointment was in defiance of Galerius, the chief emperor. Galerius
looked upon the elevation of Constantine in the West as presumption, though for
purposes of policy, he accepted and endorsed the nomination. He viewed
Constantine with the greatest suspicion, and far from acknowledging him as an
equal, he delegated him to the fourth rank among the Roman princes. Meanwhile he
made preparations to attack Constantine and invaded the West. Thus the pagan
'dragon' stood before the woman (Church) which was ready to be delivered, for to
devour her child Constantine, (for it was Christian support that finally brought
him to power) as soon as it was born (v 4)" (ApEp).
AND FLUNG THEM TO THE EARTH: "At this time, the Roman
Empire was divided into three main provinces: the West, the East and the
Illyrian. There were six rulers over the united Empire: Galerius and Maximian
ruled jointly as chief Emperors, and the four lesser rulers were Licinius,
Maximian, Maxentius, and Constantine.
"In the west, under Constantine, Christianity was tolerated;
in the East it was persecuted. But whilst the two chief Emperors continued,
there was nominal peace. On the death of Galerius, however, Constantine prepared
to attack Rome. He publicly proclaimed a policy of toleration towards
Christians. He therefore gained there support. The Christians of the West,
rejecting the teaching of the Master, prepared to take up arms to assist his
"The Christians of the East formed a fifth-column influence in
the heart of enemy territory. Maxentius prepared to resist Constantine, but in a
series of remarkable victories against great odds (proclaimed by the clergy as
miracles) Constantine, with the sign of the cross, marched steadily and
triumphantly towards Rome.
"He was opposed in person by Maxentius at the battle of
Milvian Bridge where once again victory attended the arms of Constantine.
Maxentius was drowned trying to escape, and Constantine entered Rome in triumph.
The Catholics hailed him as their patron and supporter.
"Through this victory, Constantine now ruled in Rome, Maximian
ruled in the Eastern division of the Empire, and Licinius ruled in Illyricum.
The success of Constantine in 313 had been followed by a decree of toleration
for Christians on his part, whilst Licinius had followed suit in
"This left Maximian as the champion of paganism. He boldly
proclaimed his intention of overthrowing Christianity, and initiated a holy war
by attacking Licinius. He shortly after this died, however, and Licinius annexed
his territory, thus 'drawing the third part of the stars of heaven' to
"He then repudiated his previous decree of toleration for
Christians and assumed the mantle of the champion of paganism. Thus the 'dragon'
again stood before the woman, and her man-child to destroy it. In the ultimate
overthrow of Licinius, however the 'third part of the stars' that he had
gathered to himself, were 'cast down to the earth' " (ApEp).
AN IRON SCEPTER: Wielded by Christ in Psa 2:9; 110:2;
Isa 11:1,4; and secondarily by saints in Rev 2:27.
TO HIS THRONE: From which he comes to finish his work
in Rev 19:11-15.
CH: "It was the support of nominal Christians that
brought success to Constantine; they repudiated the teaching of Christ and
flocked under the banner of Constantine to wield the sword on his behalf. 'What
have Christians to do with the sword, and the Bishops to do at court?' was the
protest of those who stood aside from the prevailing error... [The man-child
was] not Christ (see Rev 1:1) but the first of the men of Sin referred to in 2Th
2:3. 'The first of the Christian Emperors was unworthy of that name till the
moment of his death,' wrote Gibbon. He was immersed three days before his death
(in 337) so that he could be sure that all his sins would be washed
"Though unbaptised, and glorying in the rites of paganism, he
still assumed the character of Bishop and President at ecclesiastical councils,
etc, and presumed to interrupt and adjudicate on matters of doctrine.
" 'Caught up unto God, and to his throne', he ascended the
political and ecclesiastical heavens. His influence and authority paved the way
for the emergence of the god of the earth (Dan 11:38; Rev 11:4) to whose throne
(or Church) he ascended" (ApEp).
THE WOMAN FLED INTO THE WILDERNESS: "Having given birth
to her son, she [ie, the 'Church'] fled from his influence, because having grown
to power, he was prepared to destroy her to retain it. The woman represents the
so-called Christian community (cp vv 16,17) that Constantine had used as a
stepping-stone to power.
"His accession to power was followed by the Edict of Milan,
granting religious freedom to all 'Christian' parties (Catholic or otherwise),
for the son was yet too young to know its true mother. An event took place
shortly afterwards, however, that forced Constantine to take sides.
"This is what is known as the 'African Controversy,'
Contention between Caecilian and Donatus, bishops of Carthage, divided the
church. Each declared that the other had apostasied during the period of
persecution in Diocletian's reign, by delivering up the Scriptures to be
destroyed. Constantine adjudicated in the matter, and declared himself in favour
"This decision only aggravated the controversy. The Donatists
separated from the main body of the church (for to the word 'ecclesia' it could
no longer lay claim) and became anti-Catholic in their attitude. 'What has the
Emperor to do with the church, what have Christians to do with kings, what have
bishops to do at court?' became their battle cry. They refused to have any part
or lot with the apostate state that had developed in the main body of the
"The Catholics on the other hand, excommunicated them. Having
the ear of Constantine, they were able to secure legislation against them, and
Donatists were refused political recognition. Donatus and his followers were
excluded from the civil and religious communion of mankind (Gibbon). Politically
they were 'in the wilderness' (v 14)" (ApEp).
TAKEN CARE OF: "Nourished" (RSV): Israel, fled into
wilderness (Exo 16:32).
WAR IN HEAVEN: "Heaven" = Jerusalem (cp Rev 14:1; 7:15
with Rev 4:1, etc. See Rev 3:12; Isa 65:17,18; Heb 12:22,23; Rev
MICHAEL AND HIS ANGELS: "There ensues in the end of the
age a 'war in heaven' between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his
angels. Neither the man child nor the Lion of the tribe of Judah are
participants. But the identification of these combatants is not easy. Many
evince a strong disposition to understand Michael -- 'Who is like God?' -- as
another representation of Christ himself. This is not impossible. Since the
dragon is very obviously symbolic, and not literal, the same may well be true
for the other protagonist.
"But over against this are three other
The close connection with the familiar prophecy in Dan 12:1: 'And at that
time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of
thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was; and at that
time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the
book of life' (this last detail is picked up again in Rev 13:8).
two references to Michael appear to be literal, not symbolic. Jude 1:9 refers to
a literal angel. The undeniable link with Zec 3:2 would prove this. Also, in
this passage Messiah is a separate person from Michael. He is Joshua-Jesus, the
high-priest, called in Jude 1:9 'the slave, or servant, of Moses' (not 'body,'
as in the AV). The parallel in 2Pe 2:11 is surely decisive: 'Angels, which are
greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them.' Dan
10:13 requires reference to an archangel...
The fact that Michael and his
angels overcome by the blood of the Lamb (12:11) seems sufficient to require a
distinction between 'Michael' and 'the Lamb.'
"If these considerations are deemed decisive, then
interpretation of the war in heaven is not to be sought in the world of European
politics (the kind of obsession which has bedevilled so many attempts to unveil
the Apocalypse). In the Last Days the serpent-dragon is, as always, the
embodiment of human opposition to the will of God in the world (see esp Rev
20:2,3). In this particular instance it may be possible to identify the 'heaven'
where the conflict takes place as being Jerusalem -- this in accordance with a
common Bible idiom which has suffered neglect by students of prophecy because of
the afore-mentioned prepossession with political 'heavens and earth.' In a
nutshell, what needs to be recognized is that, because the sanctuary of the Lord
was in Jerusalem, the holy city is spoken of as 'heaven,' and the Holy Land is
referred to as 'earth' (this latter item being well helped out by the familiar
'earth-Land' ambiguity which attaches to this word in both OT and NT)" (WRev).
[See Lesson, "Land" or "earth"?]
So, then, the "war in heaven" has the effect of ridding the
Holy City, Jerusalem, of its human, earth-bound enemies and
CH: "Constantine fought in the name of Christ. He
claimed to be fighting with the assistance of the Lord, and therefore assumed
the status of Christ's representative on earth.
"Thus he stands in this verse as the representative Michael.
He was successful in overthrowing the forces of paganism, and in that he
typified the work of Christ. Christ as the antitypical Michael (Dan 12:1) is to
destroy the Dragon (Rev 20:2,3), the pagan Christian world of today), even as
Constantine did in his days.
"He evidently delighted to claim to be Christ's
representative. A picture elevated over his palace gate portrayed him with a
cross over his head, whilst beneath his own feet were his enemies under the
semblance of a dragon cast into the abyss –- the very symbol by which he
is represented in the Apocalypse" (ApEp).
THEY LOST THEIR PLACE: As in Dan 2:35, the war in "hvn"
ends with image broken and scattered; little stone becoming a great mt (ie, mt
of Lord's house) filling all "earth/Land of Israel".
THE GREAT DRAGON: "There is need to identify the
twentieth-century dragon which is cast out so that the way is immediately open
for proclaiming the establishment of Messiah's kingdom. 'Now is come salvation,
and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ.' The
power of Rome very adequately fulfils the necessary First Century conditions --
that the dragon be a hater and persecutor of both Jews (the woman) and
Christians (the man child). What dragon power is there in the Holy Land today,
which is a hater of Jews and Christians?... There is every likelihood, from the
standpoints of Bible prophecy and modern politics, that before long Israel will
be overrun by their Arab enemies (helped, of course, on a massive scale, by
Russia), and then there will be more than enough hatred and persecution of
Jews... Just as converted Jews in the time of the apostles became, symbolically,
the man child born of the woman, so also in the end of the age repentant Jews
will fill the role of 'the rest of her seed which keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ' " (WRev).
CH: "The wars of Constantine, in the cause of a pseudo-
Christianity, resulted in the influence of paganism [the great dragon] being
ejected from positions of authority in the empire. In the year 323, Constantine
attacked Licinius and defeated him at the battle of Adrianople at Chrysopolis.
Thus the last stronghold of paganism was overthrown. Licinius, who had
previously agreed to religious toleration, ultimately as a political move,
assumed the role of champion of paganism" (ApEp).
ACCUSER: Gr "kategoreo" = one who charges another in
the assembly (agora), ie, "Satan", standing before God, to accuse Job (Job 1:9);
High Priest Joshua (Zec 3:1).
"This was the feeling of the Catholics at the time. They still
teach that the church comprises the Kingdom of God on earth. Thus when the
church triumphed, it was as though the Kingdom was established in
"The work of Constantine typified the work of the Lord Jesus
who will destroy the 'dragon' (modern paganism) and establish the true kingdom"
BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB: This is the last reference in
the Bible to the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; here it is the overcoming
blood, enabling believers to withstand the deceptions and accusations of the
accuser and enemy. There are at least 43 references to the blood of Christ in
the NT, all testifying to its great importance in the salvation and daily life
of the believer. (It should go without saying, of course, that the literal blood
of Christ was not some magical potion to be adored superstitiously, but that it
is a Bible-based means of speaking of his sacrifice, with all that
Judas the betrayer spoke of it as "innocent blood" (Mat 27:4)
and Peter called it "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish
and without spot" (1Pe 1:19). It is the cleansing blood in 1Jo 1:7 and the
washing blood in Rev 1:5, stressing that it removes the guilt of our sins. Paul
calls it the purchasing blood in Acts 20:28 and the redeeming blood twice (Eph
1:7; Col 1:14, cp Rev 5:9), thus declaring the shedding of his blood to be the
very price of our salvation. Therefore, it is also the justifying blood (Rom
5:9) and the peacemaking blood (Col 1:20). Its efficacy does not end with our
salvation, however, for it is also the sanctifying blood (Heb 13:12). There is
infinite and eternal power in the blood of Christ, for it is "the blood of the
everlasting covenant" (Heb 13:20). The first reference in the NT to his blood
stresses this "covenant" aspect. Jesus said, at the last supper: "This is my
blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins"
(Mat 26:28). Let no one, therefore, ever count the "blood of the covenant... an
unholy thing" (Heb 10:29), for the blood of Christ -- Biblically understood --
is forever innocent, infinitely precious, perfectly justifying, always cleansing
and fully sanctifying.
WOE TO THE EARTH AND THE SEA: Continued persecution of
Jews in other lands -- even after "hvnly" Jerusalem is recovered from Gentile
hands (cp v 17).
"It would seem from this that the reaction of Israel's
enemies, thrust out of Jerusalem, is to intensify persecutions against Jews in
the rest of the Land and in Gentile countries also wherever they can be got at
in countries under Russian or Arab control. With Messiah established in
Jerusalem, the Serpent is bruised in the head. Now 'he hath but a short
"The people of Israel, for all their suffering and
disappointment, are now nearer to the fulfilment of their destiny than they can
believe possible. The second allusion (v 14) to the woman in the wilderness is
markedly different from the first (v 6). In the first instance, she 'fled' into
the wilderness. This was the dispersion of Israel after AD 70. In the second she
flies as a bird, by virtue of the eagle's wings, which are given to her. This
symbol of God's providence over Israel in the wilderness (Exo 19:4; Deu 32:11),
even though an unbelieving people, indicates fairly clearly that this last
tribulation of Israel is a divinely appointed discipline. Israel's distress in
the Land and in ensuing captivity can last no longer than three and a half
CH: " 'Earth' and 'sea' are used symbolically of
people, in contrast to the heavens which relate to rulers. Among the people the
last remnants of paganism still existed. These now became subject to opposition
on the part of the Catholic powers which endeavoured to suppress the pagan
'moon' or ecclesiasticism under feet (v 1).
"Licinius, who stood as the champion of paganism, found some
support among people but they supported him at their peril, for they called down
upon themselves the opposition of the authorities over whom Constantine ruled"
THE DRAGON... PURSUED THE WOMAN: "Constantine first
triumphed in the west, and then extended his power to the east. This aroused
bitter antagonism between Christianity (the woman of v 1) and paganism. Wherever
the latter retained power it persecuted the former. Meanwhile, Christianity
became divided, the great majority supporting a state-sponsored church which had
embraced many pagan ideas and teaching, and a minority opposing this
unscriptural alliance of church and state and the incorporation of pagan
"This led to persecution, a paganised form of Christianity
seeking to cruelly oppress the minority. Thus the woman (v 1) was persecuted by
the pagans beyond the borders of Constantine's influence, and by a paganised
form of Christianity within those borders" (ApEp).
THE TWO WINGS OF A GREAT EAGLE: (CH) "The eagle was a
symbol of Rome (cp Deu 28:49). The wings represent the extremities of the
Empire. It was in these extremities that the persecuted woman (religious
community) sought a refuge" (ApEp).
A GREAT EAGLE: "I bare you on eagle's wings" (Exo 19:4;
Deu 32:11). Or... wings of a stork.. to go to Shinar... a place prepared (Zec
5:7). The woman, who ceases herself to keep God's commandments (implied in v
17), reappears at last -- still in "wilderness", as great harlot (Rev
SO THAT SHE MIGHT FLY TO THE PLACE PREPARED FOR HER IN THE
DESERT: "This is Israel now disowned by God; fellowship with the divine has
been withdrawn. Israel is in the wilderness of the nations, scattered, despised,
unloved, persecuted. The wilderness has ever been the place of probation. It
was, for Israel, after escape from Egypt. It was, for Moses, for Elijah, for
Paul -- for Jesus himself. And now, once again Israel must face the testing of
the wilderness -- a long-drawn-out trial, as it has proved, of nigh on two
thousand years, and still their hearts remain hard as tables of stone"
"A picture of a river losing itself in parched desert sands"
(CH) "As the heavens represent the ruling powers, the earth
represents the ruled. Among the latter were those who were prepared to fight for
liberty of expression and belief on the part of persecuted Christians even
though they might not subscribe to their doctrines.
"The Circumcellions of North Africa stood for political
liberty. They opposed the oppressing, persecuting policy of Rome and stood in
defence of the Donatists and those who held the Truth. The earth is represented
as 'swallowing up the flood' which is characteristic of dry, sun-burnt earth.
Circumcellions fulfilled the requirements of this symbol by taking up the sword,
in defence of political liberty. Thus some relief was granted to the persecuted"
CH: "The dragon is the symbol of the civil or military
authority of the Roman Empire. When Constantine came to power, the character of
the dragon was changed from 'pagan' to 'christian.' When he extended his power
east, he sought a more convenient situation for his growing Empire, and found it
on the Bosphorus.
"Here he established a new capital which he named
Constantinople. This became the headquarters of the military authority of the
Empire, whilst Rome remained the centre of religious influence. Constantinople
thus became the site of 'the mouth of the dragon' (Rev 16:13)...
"Three factions are referred to in this verse: the dragon, the
woman, and the remnant of the woman's seed. The former is represented as
attacking the two latter.
"The dragon represents the military authority of Rome; which
had become 'Christian' in character. The woman now represents the section of the
church that stood aside from the fusion of state and church that had taken
place, and protested at the growing apostasy that had become evident.
"The third section are described as 'the remnant of the
woman's seed', and they are said to be those who 'keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.' They thus represent the Ecclesia. Both
Protestants and Ecclesia were persecuted by the Dragon –- the military
authority of the (Roman) Empire" (ApEp).