Revelation #21 Revelation 12:1-12 (MSG) End Times: Why Things Are The Way They Are


Revelation #21  Revelation 12:1-12 (MSG) End Times: Why Things Are The Way They Are   


Starting in Chapter 12 and extending through Chapter 15 John’s vision provides a much larger perspective dealing with what is going on in the End Time.  He uses imagery that requires a lot of research because we are so far removed from his times.  One of our interpretive perspectives is that what is written has to make sense to the original audience. The original audience would recognize the images John uses.  It’s in first century Asia Minor, and the Old Testament, Jewish Apocalyptic literature, the gospels, and throw in some politics where we will be looking to help us understand what is written. 


In Chapter 12 we are going to encounter a heavenly woman, the birth of her child, a red dragon, who is set on killing both the heavenly woman and her child, a war in heaven, a song of salvation, and a war against those who keep God’s commands. Let’s see if we can make any sense of what John is trying to tell us. Through it all John is proclaiming a message of comfort and hope for believers dealing with rough times, intense times, and catastrophic times while giving us a perspective of why things are the way they are.


Revelation 12:1-6 (MSG)

A great Sign appeared in Heaven: a Woman dressed all in sunlight, standing on the moon, and crowned with Twelve Stars. She was giving birth to a Child and cried out in the pain of childbirth.


3 And then another Sign alongside the first: a huge and fiery Dragon! It had seven heads and ten horns, a crown on each of the seven heads. With one flick of its tail it knocked a third of the Stars from the sky and dumped them on earth. The Dragon crouched before the Woman in childbirth, poised to eat up the Child when it came.


5 The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.


Let’s identify the main characters.  The Son that is born is the Messiah.  The fiery Dragon we will read is the ancient Serpent, called the Devil and Satan.  The Woman represents the community of God’s faithful that birthed the Messiah.


The woman clothed with the sun, “S.U.N.” identifies her with God whom the Psalmist wrote covers himself with light as a garment (Psalms 104:2).  Paul writing to Timothy said that God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). We have already read the John can only see what looks like a person sitting on the throne but the brightness obscures his vision.  She is standing on the moon, a symbol of being elevated above earthly concerns.  Earthly concerns are about power and possessions, social status and reputation, physical beauty, and personal fulfillment. The woman is not fixated on the things of earth.  Rather her loyalty is to God.  The 12-starred crown represents the people of God.  Some scholars warn us that we should not get caught up in searching for a historical time for the heavenly woman giving birth to the Messiah.  That path would lead us to the nativity narrative.  It is better to think that the Messiah comes from the faithful of Israel.  After all, Jesus is a Jew in the line of King David. 


Allowing the woman is a symbol of true Israel her pain in childbirth can mean both the persecution that the faithful of God have endured through the centuries, as well as the agony of expectation for God’s deliverer (Mounce p. 237).


This imagery of the woman is not unique to the scripture.  Numerous pagan myths have similar descriptions. Two of the more prominent would be the Greek Apollo, Leto, and Python story and the Egyptian Isis, Osiris, and Typhon myth (Rotz, p 184).  I find it fascinating that this type of story, along with the story of God being born of a virgin, dying, and rising from the dead is often repeated in many forms.  These are all stories with themes of resilience, adaptation, sacrifice, renewal, and the cyclical nature of life.  Why do such ideas reappear across a multitude of diverse cultures?  Psychologist Carl Jung suggests that this is because these stories are archetypes in the collective unconscious.  In other words, when we hear such stories they resonate, calling to us.  In our Wesleyan tradition, John Wesley said that one of the proofs of prevenient grace was our conscience, the ability to reflect on our behavior.  One does not have a conscience without being conscious.  If you allow the leap, we have these types of stories because God wrote them into being human. How is that for a discussion starter?


Let’s move away from my conjecture and move to something with more substantial evidence. We know that the fiery dragon, which can also be translated as a red dragon, is a personification of ultimate evil (Ladd, p. 168).  The dragon is the anti-God. In apocalyptic literature, there is always the battle between good and evil. At the beginning of the story, the adversaries often appear balanced, equaly matched.  We can conclude that what we are seeing here is God versus Satan. The dragon represents “the archenemy of God and his people (Mounce, p. 237).


The seven heads with seven crowns represent Satan’s “presumptuous claim of royal power and authority” (Mounce p. 238).  Again, what we see is Satan masquerading as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rotz, p. 187).   7 is that number of completeness and informs us of the great power of God’s archenemy that has been granted.  1 Corinthians 4:4 names it “the god of this world.”  The horns harken back to Daniel chapter 7 and the fourth beast in his vision.  This also gives us an insight.  The fourth beast in Daniel’s vision represents an evil empire (Rotz, p. 187).  John may have a specific evil empire in mind and communicates this cryptically to his audience. We’ll see later if this is so. Hint: It is so.


If the dragon can kill the Child, it's game over, evil wins.  So, it waits for the opportune time to strike.


Rev 12:5-6 (MSG)

The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.


We know that the child is Jesus the Messiah.  In John’s story, we go from His birth straight to His ascension and thus we get no word about Jesus earthly ministry.  Jesus has already been introduced as the Lamb that was slain so we know that being placed safely before God does not mean that Jesus fled the hostility of the dragon.  Rather we should understand that John is telling us that because of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, He overcame every satanic effort to destroy Him (Ladd, p. 170). With the ascension He now sits at the right hand of the One He called Father, waiting for the time the Father has set for His return (Ephesians 1:20-21).  While waiting, He is interceding for us here upon the earth (Hebrews 7:25). Satan’s ultimate plan for victory is foiled (Mounce, p.239).


The Son awaits His triumphal return.  The woman, the true Israel, the true people of God, remain under God’s protection.


Revelation 12:6 (MSG)

The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.


The desert is not a wasteland, but like the Wilderness during the Exodus a place where God’s people received his guidance, protection, and provision.  God will sustain his people during the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, the 3.5 years, during the rough times becoming intense times and the intense times becoming catastrophic times, the times when evil seems to be winning the day.  The safety is a spiritual safety in which those who have bent their knee to the Lordship of Christ will receive the empowerment needed to keep the faith. During the period of Satan’s rampage, God will keep His faithful children spiritually safe.  Please note, spiritually safe, not physically safe.


With the Son in glory and God’s people empowered to stand strong, Satan has lost.


Revelation 12:7-9 (MSG)

War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but were no match for Michael. They were cleared out of Heaven, not a sign of them left. The great Dragon—ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray—thrown out, and all his Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth.


There are so many expert opinions on how to interpret these three verses. In Jewish tradition Satan is not a proper name, it’s a descriptor, and that description is accuser or adversary. In the story of Job, the accuser gathers with the rest of God’s angels, and in that gathering God asks the accuser if it has considered God’s servant Job. The accuser lays out its case against Job. My opinion on a possible interpretation is that when Jesus ascends to glory, the accuser no longer has a place in the gatherings of God’s angels.  All accusations against God’s servants find defeat in the atonement of Jesus. Because of this, there is a song of victory


Revelation 12:10-12 (MSG)

Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying,


Salvation and power are established! Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah! The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out, who accused them day and night before God. They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb and the bold word of their witness. They weren't in love with themselves; they were willing to die for Christ. So rejoice, O Heavens, and all who live there, but doom to earth and sea, For the Devil's come down on you with both feet; he's had a great fall; He's wild and raging with anger; he hasn't much time and he knows it.


The great Dragon, Serpent, called the Devil and Satan is defeated through the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus’ death and resurrection are what is highlighted here.  The accusations of the accuser and the accuser itself, no longer have a place before God.  



The accusations of the accuser directed at individual believers are nullified by their testimony and by their martyrdom.  I don’t know if every believer will be executed for their faith, but it certainly could be a possibility.  Spiritually every time you deny yourself to follow Christ you are picking up a cross and crucifying egoism, you are dying to self. Those who bend the knee to the Lordship of Jesus defeat Satan every time they are tempted.


This defeat doesn’t put an end to rampant evil and the devil’s schemes.


Revelation 12:13-17 (MSG) we will pick up next time. 


John wants to encourage his readers.  What we take away with us so far in Chapter 12 is that the rough, intense, and catastrophic times are limited in duration, that number represented by “a time, times, and half a time” “one thousand two hundred and sixty days,” those 3 ½ years, means that Evil’s work will not win, the effort will be incomplete.


We know that Satan’s defeat is assured because of Calvary.  Jesus’ death and resurrection make it possible to silence the accuser (Colossians 2:15). Right now evil is a defeated power.  Draw near to God and the devil will flee (James 4:7).  Draw near by the daily practice of the 7 habits of a disciple.


We participate in the victory as we remain obedient to God’s commands, and the teachings of Jesus, and using our spiritual gifts to testify to the risen Lord.  When we walk in the light as He is in the light the blood of Jesus purifies us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7).


It’s vitally important to maintain the faith, even in the face of death.  Stand firm, stand strong in the face of the opposition (Ephesians 6:13).  Live the life of a disciple and you will overcome Satan and its schemes. It’s your testimony that opens the eyes of people to see their need for a liberator and redeemer.


Don’t be frightened.  Like the angel said to the shepherds and Gabriel said to Mary “fear not.” “Even though evil powers are still active, God’s salvation, power, and kingdom are present realities” (Rotz, p. 192)

Now we have background information explaining why things are the way they are.  We have an enemy that seeks to destroy our faith in Christ.

 “On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One.”

Eph 6:15-16 (NCV)



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