Revelation Chapter 12 - "The Woman, the Dragon and the Man-Child"
- Everyone knows that St George conquered the fierce, damsel-eating dragon and rescued the beautiful Princess Sabra. It makes a great story, and a good illustration of how Jesus, King of Kings, overthrows the great Dragon and rescues His Bride, the Church. However, the story isn't quite accurate, for this chapter of the book of The Revelation tells us it is Michael, not George, who battles the dragon, and Michael's Lord who rescues His Princess.
Background so far
- we saw how this is a book of real cosmic world history in symbols
- we saw in chapter 1 the Guide, who is Jesus Christ the Lord Himself, and in ch. 2 & 3 His Tough Love Letters to His church
- we saw the Control Room of the Universe in ch. 4 & 5
- we saw the Lion/Lamb opening the Book of Destiny
- we saw the first pictorial history of the world in ch. 6 & 7 (the Seals judgments and Jesus' blood-bought people all safe)
- we saw the 2nd pictorial history in ch. 8-11 (the Trumpet judgments, again ending with the total victory of Jesus and His people)
Now we come to the 3rd account of the history of the world, in ch. 12-14 (just ch. 12 today)
- NOTE: these histories are not in series, one after the other, each being only a part. Rather they are parallel accounts of the same history. It is vital to understand this if we are to make sense of the book, and we are meant to make sense of it; 1:1 "to show his servants what must soon take place". This 3rd account begins with the birth of Jesus, and ends with His victory. Incomprehensible if they are not parallel accounts.
So, on to "The Woman, the Dragon and the Man-Child"
- There are 3 main characters here. If we can work out who they are (ie, what the pictures represent) we have the key to this chapter.
- The Woman
- The Dragon
- The Man-Child
- Note: see how carefully the artist, David Miles
has constructed this picture. His aim was to faithfully represent the vision as it appeared to John, by making his art follow the text of the chapter. We do not need any more than the text, but as this is a book of symbols, I think we can get some benefit from the use of Scripture-directed imagination.
This is what he says of his picture:
"This twelfth chapter of Revelation presents a picture of a woman in great pain and deep distress. She is clothed with the sun and has the moon under her feet. On her head she wears a crown of twelve stars. Not only is she experiencing the pains of one about to give birth, but is terrified by an enormous seven-headed, ten-horned, red dragon. The woman recognises that the dragon's intention is to devour her child the moment that it is born. As the dragon awaits the birth of the child, it uses its tail to sweep a third of the stars of heaven and fling them to the earth. The text does not provide any guidance concerning John's viewpoint within the vision. Therefore, for the sake of visual objectivity, I have selected a viewpoint somewhere out in space, with the woman, and therefore the sun, somewhat above the viewer, the moon on a similar level as the viewer, and with the earth beneath. Had I have opted for a view from the earth, the enormity of the dragon and the devastation being wreaked on the earth would not be so easily conveyed. I have visualised one of the heads guiding the sweep of its tail through the heavens, and another observing the effectiveness of its actions in bringing devastation on the earth. The remaining five heads remain insidiously attentive to the woman."
(David Miles is Senior Lecturer, Department of Visual Communication Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, University of Central England, U.K.)
The Woman vv1,2
- in heaven
- clothed with Sun
- Moon under her feet
- 12-starred crown on her head
- crying out in the pain of childbirth
- has radiance of the sun, the source of light. So she is clothed with God, who is light Himself.
- moon has only reflected light, yet gives light when the sun cannot (at night). This lesser light is beneath her feet, not as conquered, but as a foothold, a foundation.
- 12 stars in her crown - she is a Princess, a Queen. But see there are only 12, not 12+12 elders as we see in the Throne scene, and 12+12 in the Heavenly City, ch. 21
- some think she is the Christian Church, but how then can she give birth to the Christ? It is the other way around in fact.
- some think it is Mary the mother of Jesus. But remember this is symbolic, picture history, not literal history. New Testament is silent about her after the Gospels.
- some think she is the Old Testament church, Israel, or rather, those who share the faith of Abraham and his 12 great-grandsons. Genesis 37:9, Joseph's 2nd dream, has echoes of her, in sun, moon and stars.
- is she Eve, mother of all living, from whom by descent comes the promised seed (disappointed in Cain, lost in Abel), the serpent-crusher and dragon-slayer?
- some think she represents both the Old Testament & New Testament churches, which are really one church, one people of God, but at different stages in history. I think this is the best interpretation:- but Eve and Mary have a a part in this symbol too
- Jesus the promised Messiah came by human descent from Israel "it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah" Hebrews 7:14
- She stands on the foundation of the lesser light, the veiled but true light of the Old Testament.
- The seed promised to Eve, Who would be the serpent-crusher and dragon-slayer, came at the end of the Old Testament revelation, as promised.
- Like literal Mary, she gives birth in difficult times, when few had any hope.
- yet she is clothed in the full Light of the World, soon to be born as a baby.
- she is in transition from the lesser to the full light
- Certainly she is the Bride of Christ, the lovely one (made lovely by Him - Ephesians 5:25-27). There is a beautiful parallel in the Song of Songs, 6:10, where the beauty of Solomon's beloved is praised "Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession?"
The Dragon vv3,4
- also in heaven
- huge, red and ugly
- 7 heads (cunning and crafty, but only 7, so not all seeing and all knowing)
- 10 horns for great power; see his tail can sweep 1/3 of stars from sky - but not all!
- 7 crowns, for his ambition to be greater than the Most High God (Isaiah 14:12-14)
- v 9 tells us very plainly - the ancient serpent, from Genesis 3, the devil, Satan, the accuser (v10)
- What is he about?
- he waits to devour the woman's child (as Herod did for Jesus)
- he wages war in heaven v7
- he wages war on the earth vv12-17
The Man-Child vv5,10,11
- a son
- will rule the nations with an iron sceptre (exact parallel with Psalm 2:9)
- now in heaven
- no doubting or debating
- it must be Jesus, the Messiah Prince long promised. Psalm 2 reference is unmistakable: there it refers to him as God's son, His King.
The Chapter Explained
- v1,2,5 Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, appears at last, from the line of nation Israel. He is the culmination of all the promises of God through Moses and the prophets; Luke 24:25-27 25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
- v4 Satan seeks to destroy God's power and take His place; as the once mighty archangel Lucifer he has enormous power, sweeping a 1/3 of the host of heaven to the earth and trampling on them (so we have it in Daniel 8:10)
- v4 Satan works to destroy the child, through Herod's jealousy and fear, but cannot.
- v5 Jesus is snatched up to heaven - here is compressed all His life, death and resurrection victory over Satan.
- v6 The Church is kept safe, despite Satan's rage. Note: for a defined time - 1260 days is the time, times and half a time (3.5 years of 360 days) foretold in Daniel.
- v7-9 Satan wages war in heaven (where Jesus has been taken, as Prince waiting for His coronation day) and is defeated there. Hurled down to the earth with his fallen angels. Note: seems he has a place in heaven v8 up to the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Job chapter 1) - if so, what unimaginable patience God has, to bear with him so long.
- See Satan behind the scenes in world history "who leads the whole world astray" v9
- v10 is the focal point; the spotlight shining here on centre stage - Note: a loud voice meaning this is important 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
- v11 Church, through much suffering, is safe, by blood of the Lamb, Jesus the great sacrifice. Many martyrs, but all safe in heaven (ch 6:9ff)
- v12 Satan is now the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4) - woe! he's come here! (but his time is short - he won't last forever - like Sauron the Dark Lord in Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" he will be thrown down, never to rise again)
- v13 Satan wars against the Church, ie, God's believing people, since he cannot get at God and Jesus in heaven.
- vv14-16 expands on v6 - Church taken care of - God keeps His people safe. Even the earth, once cursed because of Man's rebellion against God, now rebels against the "god of this world" and protects her, by swallowing up the flood Satan sends to overwhelm her.
- v17 - though all church past is safe with God, waiting for the final doom of Satan and the crowning of King Jesus, yet still Satan wages war on those Christians still living on earth. Though "he knows his time is short" v12, and that he will lose, his hatred of God and God's people is so furious that he fights on, like Hitler's Nazis at the end of WW2, inflicting as much suffering as they could even though defeat was on their doorstep. Such hatred is always irrational.
Lessons for Us
- remember to always ask, "what does this symbol mean" and the book will reveal its secrets
- remember, its picture history is a series of overlapping and parallel accounts
- remember, Jesus will win (in fact He already has)
- remember, Satan will lose (in fact, he already has)
- remember, you are completely safe in Christ (even if you die for your faith in Him, rather than deny Him), and in the greatest danger without Him. Which side of v12 are you in? The rejoicing side, or the "Woe!" side?
- "Obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" v17 - the formula of the Christian. Can only do first if we do the second - ie, trust in His redeeming blood.
Click here for the next Revelation article Revelation 13 - Satan's Henchmen
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Last published: 5 Jan 2008
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