Woman and Her Son (of Revelation chapter 12)

Beginning with chapter 12 of Revelation, the victory of the Lamb is described, starting with His birth into the human family.  Previously we have encountered a great mountain and a great star; now a great sign appears in heaven.  A pregnant woman wearing the sun as a garment, standing on the moon and having twelve stars as a crown for her head, cries out with labor pains.

A second sign appears in heaven: a red dragon with seven heads, each with a crown, and ten horns on his head.  With his tail he brings down a third of the stars to earth, and he waits for’ the woman to bear the child so he can destroy it.  The baby is born, one who will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” and he is caught up to God and to His throne.

The woman flees into the wilderness to be nourished for three and one-half years, and war ensues in heaven.  Michael and his angelic army fight the dragon, identified as the devil, and throw him and his angels out of heaven to the earth.  “Now,” says a loud voice in heaven, “the salvation and the power, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down” (Rev. 12:10).  The devil, who is now on the land, proceeds to persecute the woman who bore the child, but she is given two wings of the great eagle and she flies to her place in the wilderness.  The dragon pours a river of water out of his mouth in order to drown her, but the earth opens its mouth and drinks up the river.  The dragon, enraged, begins to war against the rest of the woman’s children “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

The word picture presented above casts a long shadow backward from the obvious description of the birth of Jesus to the events connected with Moses in Egypt.  The symbolic imagery of the pregnant woman can be none other than the “True New Covenant Israel” of God (righteous remnant of Israel and righteous believing Gentiles), typified through the ages as the nation of Israel in covenant with Yahweh.  She is wearing the sun, moon and stars, symbols of the family of Jacob or Israel, as the young lad Joseph saw them in his famous dream (Gen. 37:9-10).   His father was seen in a dream as the sun.  His mother as the moon, and his brothers as the twelve stars. (See Chilton, Vengeance, 303ff for an extended discussion of the woman and the Dragon.).

The man child who rules the nations with a rod of iron is Christ (Rev. 19:15); but Moses in type also ruled the Gentiles in the sense that he brought judgment upon Egypt, forcing that pagan nation to accede to the edict of Yahweh to free the Hebrews.

John’s introduction of the woman in labor has an antecedent in Isaiah.  The prophet laments the sins of the unfaithful Israel, and promises to create a new people who will be faithful to Him.  In this context he writes:

“A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord who is rendering recompense to His enemies.  Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.  Who has heard such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Can a land be born in one day?  Can a nation be brought forth all at once?  As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons” (Isa. 66:6-8).

Isaiah continues with a description of the new covenant people being nursed at the breast of the new Jerusalem and rocked on her lap, while judgment is brought upon adulterers in the nation who have violated the covenant.  People “from all nations” are to join the new community of believers, and “from among them” priests and Levites will be chosen something completely forbidden under the Old Mosaic Covenant (Isa. 66:1-24).  Paul apparently has this passage in mind when he says, “But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother” (Gal. 4:26).  As well as Peter in 1 Peter 2:5, and John in Rev. 5:9-10.

The red dragon who stalks the woman and her Child presents an interesting composite.  He is identified in the text as the devil or Satan and as the “serpent of old.”  However, he is also in type a picture of Herod, waiting to destroy the baby King when He is born.  Herod the Great is the one who gave the orders to kill all Jewish baby boys after he learns of the birth of Jesus, infant King of the Jews.

The dragon also pictures Pharaoh (Ezek. 29:3) who gives an order similar to Herod’s, commanding that all male Hebrew children be thrown into the Nile river as soon as they are born.  Moses is rescued by being adopted into the royal family of Egypt; Jesus’ life is preserved by His being taken to Egypt until Herod dies.  “Out of Egypt have I called My son” (Matt. 2:15; Hos. 11:1) applies alike to Jesus and to the nation Israel led by Moses.

In later years Satan pursues and attempts to destroy Jesus in the wilderness, but is rebuffed by our Lord and leaves Him until a more “opportune time” (Luke 4:13).  Moses is pursued by Pharaoh’s army in the wilderness, right into and through the Red Sea.  But the earth swallows the Egyptians (Exod. 15:12), just as it swallows the flood which the dragon spews out of his mouth after the woman (Rev. 12:15-16).

The woman escapes into the wilderness; Moses and the children of Israel also escape into the wilderness.  Both of them fly on eagles’ wings:

  • You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself (Exod.19:4).
  • Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them.  He carried them on His pinions (Deut. 32:11).
  • And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place (Rev. 12:14).

In the midst of all this activity, immediately after the Child is caught up to God, Michael and his angels defeat the dragon “who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), and there is no longer a place for him in heaven.  Notice that the Child is taken up “to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5).  Satan is overcome at the moment when Jesus Christ ascends the heavenly throne, and this, according to Peter in Acts 2:32-36, occurs on the Day of Pentecost and is evidenced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).  Christ’s reign had already begun during His earthly ministry, of course, as evidenced by His authority over demons, the natural elements, illness, and death (Matt. 12:28-29).  Christ announces Satan’s imminent defeat after seventy of His disciples return from ministering in Judea.  Upon hearing their report that even the demons were subject to them in His name, He says, “I was watching Satan fall from Heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18).  Indeed, “now” have come “the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ” (Rev. 12:10).

Unquestionably, the picture in Revelation 12 is that of Jesus Christ, in His life and ministry.  Born of the covenant people (Gal. 4:4), protected from death at the hands of Herod (Matt. 3:13-15), He defeats Satan in the battle at Calvary (Col. 2:15), and ascends to the throne of God to receive His millennial Kingdom and to rule (Acts 2:33; Dan. 7:13-14), where He rules all nations (Acts 2:36), consummating His Kingdom when His final enemy death (the power of sin to separate and condemn to the eternal second death) is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26)(which would be at the completion of the 7th trumpet when  the Holy of Holies in heaven is then made fully open and full access granted. (Rev. 15:8)). 

This imagery in chapter 12 is also reflective of back in the garden, where God promised that the time would come when the Seed of woman would crush the Devil, although Satan would initially inflict a wound on that Seed (Gen. 3:15).  This is precisely what we find in Revelation 12, where the Devil seeks to destroy the woman’s Seed but he is protected.  We cannot miss the fact that John says that the Devil was angry after being cast down from heaven, “because he knows that he has but a short time” before his final defeat.  In other words, what Genesis 3:15 foretold was now about to come to fulfillment.

Paul echoes this in Romans 16:20, “And now the God of peace shall crush Satan under your feet shortly.”  Paul uses the Greek term en taxei, this term is never used to speak of rapidity of action as opposed to when an action would occur.  Paul was unambiguously affirming that the defeat of Satan was soon.  This means that Paul – and John in Revelation 12 – was anticipating the crushing of Satan very soon.

The encapsulated story of Revelation 12 is an echo and reminder of God’s promises to Israel, hearkening back to Isaiah.  There, Israel is depicted as a woman travailing in child-birth (Isa. 26:17-21).  She has been unable to bring forth, but Yahweh comes and “delivers” the rescue/salvation (consummation of the Kingdom).  Leviathan, the Dragon/Satan, is defeated (Isa. 27:1).  It is the time when the blood shed on the earth is avenged/vindicated by Yahweh (Isa. 26:20-21).

As our eschatology Study Series 16 Lessons 1 thru 10 progressively expound, they continue to reveal that the time of the vindication of the martyrs is unmistakably identified by both the Old and New Covenants as the time when Old Covenant Israel was judged in her last days (Deut. 32:43; Isa. 4:4; Matt. 23:33-39).  Thus, the conflation of all the elements of Isaiah with the elements in Revelation 12 leads us inexorably to the conclusion that it is dealing with the last days of Israel, and of the time when the Old Covenant nation was judged and destroyed for turning into the enemy of God by persecuting the righteous remnant.  It is also the time of the vindication and avenging of the blood of the saints.  And to repeat, that posits the fulfillment of Revelation firmly in the first century in the AD 66-70 cataclysm.


Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):

[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 3 Rev. Chapters 10 thru 12”]