“The Woman and the Dragon” is the title of this chapter (at least in the NIV). According to Hendriksen, we begin a new 3-chapter section that again covers the entire time period from the first to the second coming of Christ. Each section focuses on a new aspect of this crucial timespan. In 12-14, we are now seeing the real reason in the spirit realm for the outward conflict between the disciples of Jesus and the rest of the world. There is an ongoing battle in the heavenly realms between the forces of God and the forces of the Devil. God wants to give us life in abundance, whilst the Devil wants to steal, to kill and to destroy.
The Devil’s strategy was first to destroy the Messiah when he was physically present on earth; he failed in that aim, so he then attempted to destroy the church as a whole. He was also unsuccessful in this, so he contents himself with making individual Christians’ lives as miserable and ineffective as possible. We must be on our guard against these invisible attacks!
Who is this amazing pregnant woman, clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and a crown of stars on her head? She symbolises the ‘church’ of the whole covenant period, old and new; this includes God’s people beginning all the way back to Abraham and all the way forward to the very end of this age. One family, one royal priesthood, one holy nation, and one Bride.
From this great body of the redeemed, the Messiah himself was physically produced, born of a young virgin. The male child that emerges is the Messiah himself – as evidenced by Psalm 2:9 – the one who “will rule the nations with an iron sceptre”. The offspring of this ‘Woman’ has echoes of the offspring of Eve in Genesis 3:15, who will crush the head of the serpent. It also reminds us of Galatians 4:4 – “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship”. Further evidence is that this child was soon snatched up to God and to his throne – which implies the ascension of Christ after his resurrection.
Satan has attempted to destroy God’s key person at every stage of the redemption story, from the barrenness of the Patriarchs, to attacks on Moses (nearly killed as a baby by the Egyptians), to the attempts on King David’s life, to the destruction of the babies of Bethlehem – all of this to prevent the Messiah, the Son of David from coming into this world and redeeming it.
The great dragon of vv7-12 is the defeated foe of a great war in heaven. The picture of its tail sweeping a third of the stars out of the sky is symbolic of perhaps a third of the original angels choosing to follow Satan’s path to power. Perhaps he is a fallen archangel or seraph / cherub – one of the heads of the angelic hierarchy – but still less powerful than God himself. (See Ezekiel 28:11-19). Satan, like the rest, is only a created being and certainly not equal in power or authority to the Lord himself.
Having lost the battle, Satan is displaced from his position of authority; after Christ’s work of atonement on the cross, there is now no basis of God’s people being accused of sin or guilt (see Romans 8:1). But, if anything, this fact has made Satan even angrier, and he redoubles his efforts to stir up trouble for God’s people. He pursues the church and attempts to destroy it, but God prevents this for that symbolic period of 1,260 days – the length of the gospel age. This is also the same time period as the ‘time, times and half a time’ (or three and a half years) found in verse 14.
As is says in Psalm 55:
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm”.
As for me, I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning, and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me”.
It is not as though the church cannot be persecuted, but Satan’s influence is curbed so that it cannot be univerally destroyed during this period of time. In rage, the dragon goes off to pick off individual believers by tempting and persecuting them, sometimes to death. Who are these ‘offspring of the woman’? They are the ones who keep God’s commands and hold fast to their faithful testimony about Jesus.
In summary, then, there are three key periods or events that reoccur throughout the book of Revelation:
- The Gospel Era – a relatively long period symbolised by 42 months or 1,260 days or ‘a time, time and half a time’, or even 1,000 years (these are found in Rev 11:2,3; 12:6,14; 13:5; 20:2-5)
- A final short intense persecution – ‘three and half days’ (found in Rev 11:7,9; 13:7; 20:7-10)
- The Judgment Day (found in Rev 11:11,12,16-; 14:14-; 20:11-).
We will, of course, refer to these again.