Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).
Michael's Context and Role (Revelation 12:7)
John tells us that there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels battled against the dragon and his angels.
Who is this Michael? According to Jude 1:9, Michael is the archangel, the chief of the angels. He first appears in the Bible in Daniel 10:21, where he is called a chief prince. The man that appeared to Daniel (Daniel 10:5) informed Daniel he had come to give him revelation, but was late because he had been withstood by the prince of Persia for twenty-one days (Daniel 10:13). While he was there with the kings of Persia, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to assist the man.
On Daniel 10:20, the man clarifies that he has been fighting against the prince of Persia; and then, on Daniel 10:21, he tells Daniel that only Michael contends by his side. While saying this, the man also calls Michael "your prince" (Daniel 10:21, KJV): in other words, the prince of Israel.
The man is not telling Daniel about human princes, but about angelic princes who rule different territories. Thus, he is telling Daniel that, as there have been several wars and battles on Earth, there have also been wars and battles in Heaven. The man and Michael have been battling to protect Israel, God's people, through all these wars.
Notice that this man gives Daniel some insight into the order of the kingdoms that will arise: Babylon has passed, the man is fighting against Persia, and after Persia comes Greece (Daniel 10:20).
Then, the man continues to explain to Daniel all things that will happen (Daniel 11). In the first verse of the twelfth chapter, the man begins to wrap up his revelation, and tells Daniel that "at that time" (Daniel 12:1) Michael will stand for Israel, that there will be a time of unparalleled trouble, and that Daniel's people (the Jews, Israel) will be delivered. The man then tells Daniel that there will be a resurrection, and some will receive everlasting life, and others everlasting contempt.
Moreover, as we read further down, the man tells Daniel that many people will flee from one place to another during this time of trouble (Daniel 10:4). Then Daniel heard two angels talk to one another about how long these events would last, and one angel swore by God that it would last for "a time, times, and an half," until Israel's power has been scattered (Daniel 12:5-7, KJV). Now, these time, times, and half time are obviously a reference to the three and a half years of which Daniel was told in Daniel 9:27, when the king will break the covenant with Israel and turn against it.
Thus, by mentioning Michael, John is telling us that the events of which he is writing in Revelation 12 are the same events of which Daniel wrote in Daniel 12. John is giving us more information about these events, and by doing so, he is increasing humanity's knowledge of these events, as foretold in Daniel 12:4.
Satan Is Expelled from Heaven (Revelation 12:7-9)
At the end of Revelation 12:1-6, we are told that the male child was taken up to God's throne, and that the woman fled to the wilderness to be nourished for 1,260 days (three and a half years, or half of the seven years revealed to Daniel).
Because Daniel 12 speaks of the latter half of the seven years, a time during which the woman (whom we previously identified as Israel) is nourished in the wilderness, it is very likely that the war that arises in heaven between Michael and the dragon takes place at the beginning of the seven years. This will become more apparent as we continue reading through Revelation 12.
Nevertheless, the following verses in Revelation reveal that the dragon represents the Satan (the Devil), and it hints that the stars that we saw in Revelation 12:4 are the angels of Satan. Moreover, we are also told, that Satan and his angels are defeated by Michael and his angels, and that Satan and his angels are cast down from Heaven to Earth, because there is no more room for them in Heaven.
Satan's Wrath and Defeat (Revelation 12:10-12)
But what does it mean that there is no more room in heaven for Satan and his angels? According to verse 10, it means that Satan can no longer participate in the heavenly court to accuse believers, just as he did in Job 1:6-12 and Luke 22:31. For this reason, Heaven rejoices and proclaims that the salvation, power, kingdom, and authority of God and Christ have come.
In regards to these believers, we are told in verse 11 that they have conquered Satan through (a) the blood of the lamb, (b) the word of their testimony, and (c) their martyrdom. Thus, in the realm of angels, Satan has been cast out of heaven by Michael; and, in the realm of humans, he was defeated by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Then the voice from heaven warns the earth and the sea that the devil has come to them in great wrath because he knows he only has a short time left.
The Dragon Turns Against the Woman (Revelation 12:13-17)
Having been cast down from heaven, and finding himself on Earth, the dragon pursues the woman. In other words, Satan attempts to destroy Israel (v.13). The woman, however, is given the two wings of the great eagle to fly to the wilderness and be nourished there for a time, times, and half a time (v.14).
The Two Wings of the Great Eagle
Before you think that the two wings of the great eagle represent the United States of America (as some have interpreted this passage), you should consider that God told Israel that he bore them on eagles' wings when he brought them out of Egypt to Sinai (Exodus 19:4). In the Bible, eagles usually represent speed (Job 9:26, Jeremiah 4:13, Lamentations 4:19, Habakkuk 1:8) and superior strength (Hosea 8:1, Obadiah 1:4, Jeremiah 49:22); but they can also represent a blessing from God on those who believe in Him (Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 103:5).
Thus, what God appears to be saying in Exodus 19:4 is that He brought Israel out of Egypt swiftly, with superior strength, and without help on their part (for God bore them on eagles' wings). Once God told Israel to observe the first Passover, Israel came out of Egypt in haste (Exodus 12:11,30-33,51); there was nothing the Egyptians could do against God's power; and, Israel did not have to fight, but God did all the fighting for them (Exodus 14:13-14,30).
Revelation, then, is most likely telling us that when Satan begins to pursue Israel, God will intervene decisively so Israel can come to the wilderness speedily, to the place where it will be nourished for three and a half years. Some believe that place in the wilderness to be a specific place (like Petra), but the Lord appears to instruct them to flee anywhere they can hide (Matthew 24:15-22). In other words, their strategy for survival may be to disperse themselves throughout the wilderness.
Having been led to faith in Jesus Christ by the two witnesses, God now intervenes to lead believing Israel to safety.
The Earth Helps the Woman
In verse 15, we see that, since the woman has effectively fled, the serpent (the dragon, Satan) pours a river from its mouth to sweep the woman away with a flood. But the earth opens its mouth and swallows the river to help the woman (v.16).
Although Revelation does not give us the particular nations involved, it appears that the earth represents one or more nations who intervene to assist Israel. If the United States of America is involved in this conflict, it is represented by the earth (and any other nations that support Israel during this time are also represented by the earth).
On the other hand, if the earth can swallow the river of the serpent, it is likely that this river represents a great army. What we see, then, is that after Satan is thrown down from Heaven to Earth, a great war begins, and Israel is at the center of this conflict (at least, from the point of view of Revelation): some armies are fighting to destroy Israel, and other armies are fighting to help Israel. It is no wonder, therefore, that, in our modern times, Israel is caught in the middle of so many conflicts in the Middle East.
The Dragon Declares War on the Woman's Children
At this point (v.17), the dragon (Satan) is furious against the woman (Israel), but it appears the dragon cannot destroy the woman. His next move, therefore, is to make war against the descendants of the woman. Who are these descendants? They are those who obey God's commandments and who believe in Jesus Christ: Christians.
In order to make war against Christians, Satan now stands at the shore, for something is about to emerge from the sea.
The key to understanding the book of Revelation is being able to identify its references to the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), particularly the prophets.
When we interpret the book of Revelation in this way, asking ourselves what the symbols mean in their biblical context rather than what they mean to us today, we realize that the book of Revelation is a sort of sequel to the prophecies in the Old Testament, particularly to the book of Daniel.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Israel plays a major role in the book of Revelation, particularly in the twelfth chapter. If you would like to know more about the book of Revelation, I invite you to follow me and check out my other articles about it.
© 2020 Marcelo Carcach
Tony Muse from Texas, USA on July 28, 2020:
I agree with your assessment that the woman of Revelation 12 is Israel as the reference to the twelve stars, sun and moon relate to Joseph's dream about his family. I also agree with you that the descendants of the woman are in fact, the church, which would have been believing Jews in the early days.
This passage refers a male child (Christ) that ascended to heaven. This was an event that had already occurred when the book of Revelation was written. So that element suggests that this might not necessarily be about future events, but rather is an affirmation that Jesus was the promised Messiah, born of Israel, who died and rose again.
We know that there were only two remaining tribes of Israel at the time Jesus was born so this prophecy should be understood as symbolic. Therefore, I think that it could be a stretch to say that this is about today's Israel. The descendants who fled into the wilderness, in my opinion, represent the Christian diaspora.