War, Revelation 12:1-17 (NASB)(1)
War! We're at war; the struggle between good and evil has been going on since the beginning of time. There's been a war between Satan and God-Satan's forces and God's forces-both in the physical realm and the spiritual realm. Yes, there is the unseen world and the world we're all familiar with, the eternal and the temporal as the philosophers name them. We see only the physical realm (1 Cor. 13:12), but it is a mere shadow of the spiritual. The real drama is within the spiritual realm. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12 NASB). Revelation chapter 12 is a synopsis of this war from it's inception to its future outcome. And the consummation of this war will be Armageddon.
War on earth: phase I, 12:1-6
12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
John saw a great (Gr., megas) vision in heaven. John speaks here of a personal and actual experience when he was caught up into heaven and given revelations he could only describe allegorically. Caught up (Gr., harpazw:G726; cf., Rev. 4:1, 2) is where we get the term rapture (i.e., ecstasy) from. Literally it means seized, as in the future rapture of believers (1 Thess. 4:17). The third heaven is God's dwelling place. Israel is always referred to in the feminine gender, i.e., woman. "Clothed with the sun" is symbolic of being in the heavenly Father's glory. The "moon" once ruled Israel's activities in the O.T.-here, in the future, it is in subjection to Israel. The "twelve stars" represents the twelve tribes of Israel (cf., Gen. 37:9; 1 Cor. 15:41). [Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. Click here to visit her "Revelation Illustrated" site.]
2 and she was with child; and she cried^ out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
A historical reference identifying the birth of the Messiah via Israel. His first Advent.
3 And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.
Satan is the red dragon-the seven heads with diadems (crowns) are Satan's seven empires throughout history (cf., Matt. 4:8): Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Median-Persian, Grecian, Roman and the future "revived empire." The ten horns are the ten nation confederacy making up this final, future kingdom (cf., Dan. 7:7, 20, 24) out of which the Antichrist will arise.
4 And his tail swept^ away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
Lucifer (angel of light; 2 Cor. 11:14), from pride, exalted himself as equal with Almighty God (Isaiah 14:12-16; Ezekiel 28:11-19, "Tyre" is a cryptogram for Satan), thus beginning the war in heaven, taking a third of the angelic beings with him. Through Herod, Satan attempted to destroy the Christ-Child (Matt. 2:13, 16).
5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
Messiah was indeed born of virgin birth and will "rule all the nations with a rod of iron" during His millennial kingdom (cf., Psalm 2:8-12). After His resurrection, He is "caught up" to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). ("Caught up;" see comments above to Rev. 12:1).
6 And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had^ a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
In the last days, the believing remnant of Israel (Rev. 7:4; 14:1) will flee to a place of sanctuary in the wilderness for 3 ½ years (cf., Matt. 24:15-22). This event begins at mid-point during the seven year tribulation (Dan. 9:27; cf., Matt. 24:15). Jacob's trouble (Jere. 30:5-7), the great tribulation, thus begins...Satan's war on all the saints (i.e., true believers; see: Rev. 12:13-17).
War in heaven, 12:7-12
7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war,
8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now 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, who accuses them before our God day and night.
11 "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
12 "For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."
Michael is the guardian archangel over Israel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 19). Preceding the day of the Lord is the final war in heaven when Satan and his angels are cast down to the earth by Michael and his angels. Prior to this war, Satan and his angels had access to heaven (Job 1:6; the sons of God. I.e., angels.). Knowing he (Satan) has only a short time before God's wrath will begin, Satan's wrath will intensify with the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21, 22). The end is near enough now that the announcement of it can be made (v. 10; cf., Rev. 11:15).
War on earth: phase II, 12:13-17
13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
14 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, where she was^ nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.
17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
"The two wings of the great eagle" is God's provision to rescue the faithful of Israel (cf., Deut. 32:11). Satan's war on the rest of saints (i.e., true believers; see comments after v. 6), who "hold to the testimony of Jesus," will begin after he finds himself frustrated in his attempt to pursue the faithful of Israel (Rev. 7:4; 14:1). The earth will open, probably as a result of an earthquake brought on by God, to swallow up the Antichrist's forces. Directly, the great tribulation is finally "cut short" (Matt. 24:22) by the appearing of Jesus on the day of the Lord (Matt. 24:29-31). Armageddon is the final battle on earth (Rev. 16:14, 16) at the end of His wrath as Jesus takes legal possession of the earth to begin His millennial rein. Only one battle remains at the conclusion of His thousand year rein with Satan's final rebellion before time as we know it ends and eternity begins (Rev. 20:7-10).
Rev. 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
1. Foundation Press Pub., "All scripture references are from the NASB," The New American
Standard Bible, Ref. Ed., 1973c.