CHAPTERS TWELVE AND THIRTEEN is the fourth division of the sevenfold structure of revelation as well as another parenthesis. This interlude reveals the seven key personages of the Great Tribulation. The twelfth chapter contains flashbacks and flash-forwards. The woman in this chapter is the key interpretive figure of the Apocalypse. Covenant theologians, who spiritualize the fulfillment of the OT prophecies, interpret the woman as the Church. Dispensational theologians, who take the OT prophecies as literal, interpret the woman as Israel. The crux of the interpretation of the entire book revolves around the identity of this woman.
Historicists see chapters 4-11 as the outward state of the Church and chapters 12-19, looking at the same period, as the inward state of the Church. The woman’s child symbolizes the enthronement of Constantine over the entire empire in A.D. 324.
Preterists hold different views at this point. Some see the prophecy continuing with the destruction of Jerusalem, now called Babylon; while others see Babylon as the city of Rome, the great persecutor of the Church, in the remaining chapters. The woman is the faithful remnant of Israel and her child is Christ.
Idealists view the principal details of these chapters as beginning at Acts 11:9 so that they are not prophetic but relate to things past and passing. The travailing woman is either the believing remnant of OT Israel or a symbol of God’s people in both OT and NT dispensations. All agree the child is Christ.
Futurists find details unfolded that chronologically precede the consummation of God’s judgment. Some along with the Roman Catholics say the woman is Virgin Mary. The majority take the woman to be Israel and her child to be Christ.
THE HEAVENLY CLAD WOMAN (12:1-2). Some believe this woman is the visible outward false church. However, the false church is spoken of as a woman, who is a great prostitute (Revelation 17). Others say she is the Church in travail awaiting the Rapture.
However, this description of the woman is found in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9, in which the sun and moon and twelve stars depict the family of Jacob, the people of Israel. Israel is often spoken of as a woman married to God under the terms of the old covenant (Isaiah 54:1-6; Jeremiah 3:1-14; Hosea. 2:14-23). Israel gave birth to Christ (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Romans 9:4-5; 12:5).
Israel is identified as the woman by the wars against her and her seed. The same predictions of this woman are found in connection with Israel in the OT so they must be the same (Daniel 7:21; 8:9-14, 24-25; 9:27; 11:40-45; 12:1, 7; Joel 3; Zechariah 12:1-9; 13:8-9; 14:1-21).
The Seventh Seven of Daniel 9:27 concerns Israel and Jerusalem, as did the first sixty-nine sevens (Daniel 9:24-27). The Church is not once mentioned in connection with these last day events. Therefore, this woman is taken to be Israel.
THE GREAT RED DRAGON (12:3-4).
There is no doubt as to the identity of the dragon.
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9).
He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2).
In Revelation, four names are used for the Evil One:
1. The Great Dragon depicts that he is the enemy of God and Israel
2. The Ancient Serpent points to his craftiness in deception
3. The Devil denotes that he is a slanderer or accuser
4. Satan means he is an adversary or enemy
In Revelation, the Evil One’s end is recorded in four stages:
1. From the air to the earth (Revelation 12:9; Luke 10:18)
2. From the earth to the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3)
3. From the bottomless pit to the earth (Revelation 20:7-9)
4. From the earth to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10)
Dragon is used fourteen times in Revelation as a symbol of Satan. The fall, rebellion, and end of Satan (the Guardian Cherub or the Morning Star, Lucifer in Latin Vulgate) are vividly described in Isaiah 14:12-20 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. He is a created being, not a god! He is powerful, however. He presently controls the kingdoms of this world as well as the demonic realm. When Adam and Eve fell in sin, Satan seized dominion and rule of this planet. Even Christians are warned not to underestimate the power of their adversary:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11). And that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26). The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Ten heads and ten horns and seven crowns on the beast’s head correspond to Daniel’s vision of the Fourth Beast (Daniel 7:7, 23-25) and John’s vision of the Beast (Revelation 17:8-14).