Revelation 12: Facing a Fierce Foe but not Backing Down!

Revelation 12:13-17

Image above: Guido Reni – Massacre of the Innocents public domain Wikipedia.

We have seen in the past two posts that main point of this chapter is —

We as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ are in a cosmic Spiritual Battle in which Satan and his allies are seeking to destroy us. 

Let’s see in this post how fierce the conflict can become.

I. The church is the new Israel of God which is the target of Satanic attack.

vs. 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

Satan cannot get back at God directly. He does attempt to do so indirectly, however, through man. He takes his anger out upon the children of God. The specialized use of the Greek past tense stresses entering into an activity — “began to… .” The Greek word diōkō means “to put to flight,” “to pursue,” or “to persecute.” Since the devil cannot sling dirt in God’s presence any longer, he does so by pursuing His people and persecuting them.

II. God always provides for His people’s needs in times of persecution.

vs. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

Isaiah 40 gives us this promise —

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (ESV; emphasis mine.)

Beale points out that this verse takes us back to 12:6 and explains it further — 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

This section brings to mind the promises given by the Lord to Israel in Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself; and Deut. 32:10-12.

This is direct Divine intervention for the purpose of deliverance. For the time designation see the note on vs. 6. Both of the verbs are passive in voice — indicating an implied Divine agent.

The church is once again portrayed as latter-day Israel taking over the role of the old Israel, and with the spiritual wilderness (erémos) representing God’s protective presence substituted for the physical wilderness of Sinai. (See Beale, p. 260, below.)  

Wolf in Sheep clothing

Wolf in sheep’s clothing, /u/Departedart, Digital, 2019

III. One of Satan’s chief means of defaming God is to corrupt His church by error.

vs. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.

The water brings to mind the Exodus. The water was a barrier to their escape. The word for “swept away by the stream” is potamophorétos. It was used in an A.D. 110 papyrus (a letter written on paper) meaning “to become river borne.” The thought may be that the godly are wrestling with a flood of deception.

Psalm 144 relates this possibility

Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Psalm 32:6-7 sounds this same promise of protection.

Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. (ESV; emphasis mine)

IV. Our Lord God of Armies (Yahweh Sabaoth) has all resources at His disposal to aid His people.

vs. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.


A conventicle in progress, from H. E. Marshall’s
Scotland’s Story (1906) public domain image from wikipedia.

The river runs under ground and does not destroy the woman. This speaks of the many ways the Lord will deliver his people during tribulation.

In the “killing times” in Scotland, an old Covenanter preacher had been delivering a sermon out in the rural countryside. All fled at the sound of horses and soldiers. The preacher ran into a cottage. The family hid him in a cupboard. Unknown to anyone a spider dropped down and began to weave a web over the cupboard door. Then the soldiers broke in and turned almost everything upside down. When they came to the cupboard, the captain said, “Don’t bother with that. The door hasn’t been opened in ages. There’s a spider web across the door.”

V. Obedience to Christ and Faithfulness to His Word brings the most suffering and the greatest success. 

vs. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The church itself will not be destroyed. This is symbolized by the invulnerability of the woman. However, Satan will attack individual members of the church and seek to destroy them. This is symbolized by the “making war against the rest of her offspring.” The phrase “make war against” is identical to that used in two other places — 11:7 where the beast attacks the two witnesses and in 13:7 where the beast attacks the saints. “Could this possibly correlate the three groups and indicate their common identity under three different figures’?” (see Johnson, A. F., below.) Satan hates those who obey God’s word and who possess the testimony of Jesus.

In China, reporting Christian activities to police pays money

In parts of China, Christianity continues to be suppressed and stifled — especially with the next generation. We have recent reports that in China’s Gushi County—home to almost 2 million people—citizens have been encouraged to report “illegal” religious activities in exchange for monetary rewards. Reportedly, a reward of 500 yuan (around $73) was promised for photos, video or recordings of religious events. The information about the reward came to light when a summer camp hosted by a church in the county was interrupted and raided by government officials who accused the church of holding “illegal” activities. During the raid, plainclothes police confiscated personal and church property and took the pastor and his wife to the police station. A church member told China Aid that the officials suggested they acted on information from a third party, saying they had received “report from folks.” [Open Doors, USA website]

Still the house churches grow!

[vs. 12:18 or 13:1?] And he [or I] stood on the sand of the sea.

“And he stood on the sand of the sea.” This refers to the Dragon. The Textus Receptus or TR (the Greek manuscript from which the KJV was translated) reads “and I stood on the sand of the sea,” referring to John. The oldest manuscripts have the 3rd person singular and not the 1st person singular.

This verse is included in the KJV as a part of 13:1. It is obvious that it should be 12:18. It forms a link between the two chapters. The Dragon watches as his proteges, the Beast from the sea and the Beast from the earth rise to do
his bidding. These three figures are the “Satanic Trifecta.”

We do not know when persecution might come our way. Death is the last enemy we face in our earthly life. As we testify of God’s to wondrous grace in Christ, we never know who might be listening in the corner while we speak to someone who appears unresponsive.

Sangster-318Rev. William Edwin Sangster (1900-1959), very famous preacher, had been on a speaking engagement one evening and decided to give his wife a call. He usually did before leaving for home on a long journey. He connected to the long distance operator and gave her the number. (This was way before cell phones.) As he was waiting to be connected to his wife, he sang the words to a favorite hymn —

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.
(Richard Baxter, “Lord, it Belongs not to My Care,” 1681)

The operator had been listening in to make sure the connection was made. When he finished singing that last verse, she asked him to repeat the words. She said, “You’ll never know how much those words meant to me tonight!”

Application for Chapter 12

Chart for Application of Reve 12

Next time Chapter 13!

(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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