Revelation 12 is an important chapter that pivots the first half of Revelation to the second half of Revelation by providing an overview of the conflict between Christ and Satan. Some commentators have said that the first half of Revelation is historical while the second half of Revelation is eschatological.
I can understand that from where we are today in history, but to John it was all eschatological. I do think that in Revelation 12 we have a foundation laid that helps explain the prophecies given in the second half of this book so let’s jump into some study highlights…
Revelation 12:1-6 — We are introduced to two “signs” in these verses. It is important to remember that the women and the dragon, as mentioned here are called signs, so they point toward the real thing they symbolically represent. Just as an exit sign on the interstate highway is not the actual location, but merely points toward it.
In Scripture, we see that the church or God’s people or the saints, are symbolically represented as a women (Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 54:1-8; Jeremiah 6:2; Ezekiel 16:8-14; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-27). The sign of the women here is likely the same, and verse 5 gives us the picture of the birth of Christ and His ascension.
The sign of the dragon is identified in verse 9 as “the devil, or Satan” so when we read in verse 4 that the dragon waited to devour the women’s child, we should recall Herod’s “orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (Matthew 2:16 NIV).
The last interesting thing in this introduction of the signs is that women flees into the wilderness for is called “1260 days” or in prophetic understanding (Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34) it would be 1260 literal years. This is significant because there is a period of history in which the church was persecuted under the Holy Roman empire that forced Bible believing Christians into hiding.
From A.D. 538 when the empire was given reign over all church or religious practices until A.D. 1798 when French General Berthier entered Rome and took the Pope as prisoner, thereby effectually ending the Holy Roman empire. It was a 1260 year reign of persecution for those who wanted to stand on the simple word of God and it is referenced seven times in Scripture (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
Revelation 12:7-8 — We get a glimpse of what happened in Heaven with the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-16 where we read that the Lord said, “So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you” which likely took place before Christ’s first advent.
We learn from the fall that God created beings with a free-will. This makes perfect sense when we consider that God is love and love by its very nature cannot be forced or programmed without free-will. So Lucifer yielded to his own self-exaltation and thought himself better than God.
A brief word about war and Michael in this passage. War was first experienced in the perfection of Heaven and this tells us that sin is so serious and hideous to our well-being that it requires war as its counter measure. On the topic of Michael, I would direct you to articles I wrote titled “Michael the Archangel, Jesus?” and one titled “Amir Tsarfati and Michael the Archangel?”
I think there is a good case to be made that Michael is Jesus, and the use of the term angel does not automatically mean “a created being” because its meaning is really “messenger.” The contextual reference to Jesus as Angel no more makes Him a created heavenly host than does the reference to Him as a Lamb makes Him a created animal.
An identity of Michael as Jesus is certainly not a salvific doctrine requiring us to take sides on, but we do know that our Lord was there in that “war in heaven” because while in conversation with His disciples on first-hand spiritual warfare He said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
Revelation 12:17 — We find in this last verse of the chapter that Satan is furious that his plan to kill the Christ-child failed and his plan to kill the church through persecution failed. So now we see that he “went to make war with the remnant of her seed” and this basically means he is changing his strategy from death to deception.
There is a meaning here that Satan goes off in time and space to make war and some translations include this concept by putting “went off to make war” as did the New International Version.
In chapters 13-14 of Revelation we’ll see just how Satan will “make war” against Christ’s saints and the chapters following that tell of the Lord’s response through plaques, wrath, the battle of Armageddon, and ultimately the descending of the New Jerusalem to the New Earth.