Topics of discussion: interpreting Revelation, 1914, the two classes theology
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Interpreting Revelation 12
This is by no means an exhaustive commentary of Revelation 12. But I hope it will serve as an explanation of the chapter with what I believe to be a reasonable interpretation. I would encourage you to check out my other commentary on Revelation 20 for some additional support for this interpretation.
12:1 The “great sign” mention shows that we are probably dealing with imagery and symbolism, and indeed we are. The “heaven” location is telling us that the “sign” is divine in origin. This sets the stage for the identify of the woman, who is the faithful remnant of Israel (Isaiah 54:1, Gal. 4:27). The cosmic imagery is similar to that of Gen. 37:9-11 where Joseph’s family bowed down before him. This gives us a strong another strong clue that we are in some way talking about Israel.
12:2 The similar language to Isaiah 26:17-21 displays the great difficulty the faithful remnant went through as they awaiting their Messiah.
12:3 The dragon will soon be identified with Satan (12:9) and the “seven head and ten horns” are a culmination of the beast in 13:1 and Daniel 7:7, which were the various political powers within the Roman empire in the 1st century and prior. But the vision here is to specifically show that the various beasts were representing Satan, the dragon.
12:4 Notice the dragon hadn’t been “thrown to the earth” yet. This happens in 12:9. However, the “stars” are in reference to angels who were influenced by Satan. Whether this was at the fall or in the first century, we aren’t told. Remember, these are symbols. The point is, they are on the earth by the time the faithful remnant brings forth their Messiah. The “devouring the child” references all the attempts to rid the earth of the coming of the Messiah, such as Herod’s (Matt. 2:13, 16).
12:5 This is the rule of the Messiah (Psalm 2:9, Rev. 2:27, 19:15) which takes placed upon His ascension. This also confirms that the “child” is indeed the Messiah, and of course by extension, His co-rulers.
12:6 The “fleeing into the wilderness” is the faithful remnant leaving Jerusalem in obedience to Jesus (Matt. 24:16, Luke 21:21). The 1,260 days (see also 11:3, 13:5) is the period of time of the Jewish war and/or of Nero’s great persecution. The fleeing to the wilderness is something that the Jews in Israel could do, but not the Roman converts who would endure this great persecution (13:7). This how John could refer to those who, “come out of the great tribulation” (7:15).
12:7-8 Rather than continuing as a chronological sequence, we have a flashback to explain the previous verses (12:1-6). That is, 12:7-12 give us a quick retelling of the full story of the fall, including Satan’s rebellion, leading back up to the story of the woman (the faithful remnant) in 12:13.
12:9 We aren’t told exactly when the “war in heaven” (12:7) started. It could have started at the fall, or perhaps later. Either way, Satan is finally thrown down to the earth at this point along with the angels. This occurred in the first century because of what Jesus says in John 12:31, “Now judgement is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” This also correlates with Rev. 20:1-3 where Satan is cast out and then bound for a thousand years.
12:10-11 The Kingdom of God is officially here (Rev. 11:15, Matt. 12:28). We know this because of the affirmation, “the authority of His Christ have come.” When did Christ get his authority? Upon His ascension He was given, “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:19). We also see this affirmed in Col. 2:15. Hebrews 2:14-15 show us that “through death” Jesus rendered Satan powerless. But powerless in what way? Those under Satan’s power were in “fear of death” and “subject to slavery all their lives.” Now Satan could no longer be the great accuser because through the blood of Christ, “who can bring a charge against God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33)? Certainly not Satan. The saints will now be empowered to overcome Satan “because of the blood of the lamb” (see also Rev. 7:15). This lends very strong support to a first century fulfillment.
12:12-13 Why is the “woe” pronounced to the land in accordance with “a short time” for the devil? Because the woes on Jerusalem would happen within this generation (Matt. 16:28, 24:34). Remember, Satan is defeated as an accuser (12:10) and deceiver of the nations (20:3). That didn’t mean he would be inactive or unable to cause harm. Clearly, we see in chapter 13 how difficult things would be for the saints, but through the agency of the great beasts (13:7).
12:14 Even though Roman Christians and others in the surrounding nations would undergo great persecution, especially under Nero, those in Jerusalem or those who knew about the coming tribulation had the opportunity to “flee to the mountains” when they saw Jerusalem “surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20-21).
12:15-17 Though Satan tried to persecute the Jerusalem Christians, perhaps through the influence of the pagan armies attacking the city, he would fail. However, the dragon would continue to war against “the rest of her seed” which likely includes the gentile converts. 12:17 is a good reminder that though Satan was defeated in a very prominent way, he could still inflict damage. However, it is important to remember that no matter what, the saints overcome “through the blood of the Lamb.”
All in all, we see good reasons to view Revelation 12 in a first century fulfillment rather than thousands of years later as JWs would have us believe.