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Revelation 12:1-6 — The Woman, the Dragon, and the Child

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

The Woman of the Apocalypse and the Seven-headed Dragon; Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

The Woman of the Apocalypse and the Seven-headed Dragon; Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

The Woman

In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, John tells us about a sign that appeared in heaven. That is, heaven is the background against which John sees this vision. However, that the sign appeared in heaven might indicate that the events to which this sign refers have been decided in heaven: for, in 1 Kings 22:19 and 2 Chronicles 18:18, the host of heaven stood by the Lord's throne to weigh in on how events would unfold on Earth, and the same appears to happen in Job 1:6-12. In fact, many confrontations in heaven consist on an exchange of disputes (Zechariah 3:2; Jude 1:9).

According to John, the sign that appeared in heaven was a woman clothed with the Sun. The moon was under her feet, and she wore on her head a crown with twelve stars. Although the Sun, the Moon, and the stars appear elsewhere in the book of Revelation, here they are all converging on a woman. Moreover, the stars are numbered: there are twelve stars.

Any reader familiar with the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), would have immediately recognized that this number represents the nation of Israel, since the nation of Israel was said to be composed of twelve tribes. The Sun, the Moon, and the twelve stars also correspond to Joseph's dream, in which he saw the Sun, the Moon, and eleven stars bowing to him (Genesis 37:9). Obviously, Joseph only saw eleven stars because he did not include himself, but John sees twelve stars because his vision includes Joseph.

The woman, then, represents the nation of Israel.

In the second verse, John adds other details about the woman: she was pregnant, and she was crying out in pain because she was about to give birth. This appears to be a reference to Micah 5:3, where Israel is compared to a woman in labor until she gives birth to the Messiah (Micah 5:3).

Note. Some interpreters regard the woman as the church, not Israel. However, such interpretation is based on a theological perspective, not on the passage’s direct and obvious reference to Genesis 37:9. Therefore, I believe this interpretation is imposed on the passage rather than being derived from the passage.

The Dragon

John sees another great sign: a great red dragon. The red dragon had seven heads, ten horns, and seven diadems on its heads; and, with its tail, it swept one third of the stars of Heaven and cast them down to Earth.

Interpreting this dragon would be very hard indeed were it not for John who gives us the interpretation: on verse 9, John clearly tells us that the dragon is the ancient serpent (a reference to the serpent that is first mentioned in Genesis 3:1). In case we haven't understood what John means, he tells us that this serpent (and dragon) is the Devil, who is also called Satan.

According to John, Satan is the one who deceives the whole world. Once again, a clear reference to Satan’s work in the garden (Genesis 3:4-5, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:14), a work that Satan continues to do on a global scale (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, Revelation 13:14, 20:3, 8, 10).

The identity of the dragon being resolved, Revelation does give us several details about this dragon that hint there is more to this dragon than meets the eye: in other words, this dragon represents more than just Satan. The dragon’s heads, its diadems, and its horns do mean something (to find out what they mean, you can read my upcoming article “Revelation: Beasts, Horns, and Heads” when it is published. Follow me so you can receive a notification when I publish it).

In regards to the stars swept from Heaven and cast to Earth by the dragon's tail, it appears that John quickly identifies them (though indirectly) as angels (Revelation 12:7). This interpretation of the stars is consistent with the book of Revelation, which previously equated stars with angels (Revelation 1:20), and with the Old Testament, which equates morning stars with angels (Job 38:7).

In regards to the other details about the dragon, let us consider first that the dragon is red. Red was previously used once in the book of Revelation: it is the color of the horse whose rider takes peace away from Earth. In other words, red is the color of war. This, then, is a fitting color for the dragon, because (as we shall see), the dragon means to declare war on the woman, which is Israel.

The Child

What John tells us next is terrifying. The woman (the nation of Israel) is in pain because she is about to give birth, and the dragon (Satan) stands before the woman, ready to devour her baby when she gives birth.

Then the woman gives birth to a male child, and this child is destined to rule all the nations with a rod of iron (a reference to Psalm 2:8-9). Nevertheless, the dragon is not able to devour the child: for the child is caught up to God and to God’s throne.

Clearly, the male child is God’s anointed (Psalm 2:2), God’s chosen King of Zion (Psalm 2:6), God’s begotten Son (Psalm 2:7): Jesus Christ, who was caught up (lifted up) to heaven (Acts 1:9) to sit at God’s right hand (Acs 2:34-35, Hebrews 10:12) on God’s throne (Revelation 3:21).

Note. Some interpreters regard the child as the true church, not Israel. However, such interpretation is based on a theological perspective, not on the passage’s direct and obvious reference to Psalm 2:8-9. Therefore, I believe this interpretation is imposed on the passage rather than being derived from the passage.

The Timeline

The events involving the woman, the dragon, and the child appear to symbolize historical events that Christians would have readily recognized.

Pains before Birth

The woman’s pains before childbirth represent Israel’s oppression under Rome.

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When Pompey took control of Jerusalem in 63 BC, it took him three months to capture the temple mount. After breaching the walls, Pompey and his forces slaughtered thousands of Jews in the sanctuary.

Years later, Hezekiah the Zealot led a resistance against the Romans; but Herod the Great captured and beheaded him. Rome warded Herod the Great in 37 BC by appointing him King of Judaea.

To Devour the Child

The dragon’s attempt to devour the male child when he was born represents the events described in Matthew 2:13-18. Herod the Great sought to kill Jesus, who was then only two years old (or less). Since Herod the Great died in 4 AD, we deduce that the Lord was born sometime around that date, before Herod’s death.

The Escape

In 70 AD, some forty years after the Lord Jesus Christ was caught up to heaven, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed. By 73 AD, the Romans had driven out most Jews from Israel. In effect, the woman fled to the wilderness.

The 1,260 Days

When we read this passage in Revelation, it is easy to assume that, after feeling, the woman would stay in the wilderness for only 1,260 days. However, we know from history that was not the case, and the passage actually hints that was not to be the case.

The verb fled is in the past tense. That is what John saw the woman do: the woman fled. However, the passage also states that, in the wilderness, the woman has a place prepared by God. Even in the Greek, the verb have is in the present tense: she has.

Notice the inconsistency. The woman fled because she has a place where she is to be nourished (a future event) for 1,260 days. In other words, the fleeing, the having, and the nourishing do not occur in the same age. The text does not mean that the woman fled because she had a place where she was nourished, but the woman fled because she has a place where she will be nourished.

The nourishing of the woman for 1,260 days can be a distant event in the future, and I believe it should be interpreted as a distant event in the future because the book of Revelation is mainly about an event yet future to us: the Lord’s visible return to Earth.

These 1,260 days are 3.5 periods of 360 days, or three and a half years.

This period of 1,260 days is similar to the period of 1,290 days plus 45 days in Daniel 12:11-12. However, although this period in Revelation appears to be inspired by the period in Daniel, the difference in days (75 days) appears to indicate that both periods are not the same: that Daniel and Revelation are speaking of two different periods.

Similarly, it is tempting to equate the 1,260 days in Revelation to the “time, times, and half a time” in Daniel 7:25, and to the half week in Daniel 9:27; but, being persuaded by an amillennial interpretation, I no longer think that Daniel 7:25 and 9:27 are speaking of the same 1,260 days mentioned here in Revelation 12:6. I believe that Revelation 12:6 is simply drawing inspiration from the 1,290 days plus 45 days in Daniel 12:11-12 to prophesy about a new and future period of 1,260 days.

Recapitulation in Revelation

Revelation 12 is the first chapter in a section in Revelation that recapitulates the events in Revelation 6 to 9. The particular verses discussed in this article (verses 1-6) recapitulate the destruction of Jerusalem in Revelation 6 and provides a historical and spiritual background for its destruction. Moreover, verses 1-6 also introduce us to a future persecution of Israel and the church (one that is taking shape in our own days, and that is called The Great Tribulation).

© 2020 Marcelo Carcach

Comments

Tony Muse from Texas, USA on July 29, 2020:

A few observations:

Daniel 9:24-27 never speaks of a covenant being broken, it only speaks of a firm covenant being established with many. Additionally, Daniel 9 only mentions two individuals; the Messiah and the prince whose armies would destroy the temple and city (Titus). Thus, the pronoun "he" in verse 27 can only be speaking of one of the first two individuals who had previously been mentioned. The covenant made with many was the new covenant made with many by Christ. This covenant was made in the one week that remained in the 70 weeks that were prophesied.

Joel 2:30-31 “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,

Blood, fire and columns of smoke.

31 “The sun will be turned into darkness

And the moon into blood

Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.

This sounds a lot like a large city being burned and the smoke darkening the sun and moon.

Jesus said "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

The mountain that would fill the whole earth is the kingdom of God, the church. The same church that Jesus said that not even the gates of hell would prevail against.

Blessings.

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