Son versus Serpent

War broke out in “heaven” with the “Dragon” poised to destroy the messianic “son” as soon as he was “born”Revelation 12:1-6

Dragon - Photo by Félix Besombes on Unsplash
John saw a new “
sign” in the heavens, the woman “clothed with the sun, and the moon beneath her feet,” and wearing a “crown of twelve stars.” She was pregnant and about to give birth to her “son,” which was in fulfillment of the messianic promise in the second Psalm - The one who was destined to “rule the nations.” - [Dragon - Photo by Félix Besombes on Unsplash]

Satan, symbolized by the “great red Dragon,” was poised to devour the child as soon as he appeared, but instead of his destruction, he was “caught up to the throne of God” before the “Dragon” could strike. This marked the commencement of the final stage in the age-old war between God and Satan.
  • (Revelation 12:1-2) – “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon beneath her feet, and upon her head, a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child and is crying out, being in pangs and in anguish to bring forth.”
The noun sémeion or “sign” is related to the verb sémainō, which is rendered “signify” in the first verse of the book (“And he signified”). The “woman” in the sky is symbolic, not literal.

The description of the “sun and the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars” alludes to the dream of Joseph when he saw the sun, moon, and eleven stars rendering homage to him. The twelve stars represented the tribes of Israel, with Joseph being the twelfth star - (Genesis 37:9).

The Genesis background means the “woman” represents the covenant community, the people of God. Possibly both the Old and New Testament communities were intended. In the vision of “New Jerusalem,” both the “names of the twelve tribes of Israel” and the names of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb” were found on the city’s gates, walls and foundations - (Revelation 7:4-8, 21:12-14).

The “crown of twelve stars” was a victor’s “wreath” or stephanos, in distinction from the seven “crowns” or diadems of the “Dragon.” Elsewhere, victory “wreaths” are associated with the victory of saints over the Devil, the “one who overcomes” - (Revelation 2:10, 3:11).

Her labor pains symbolized the tribulations of the covenant community caused by the attacks of the “Dragon,” which culminated in the birth of the “son.” The image echoes language from the fall of Adam due to the deceit of the “serpent”:
  • (Genesis 3:15-16) - “And enmity will I put between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, but you will crush his heel. To the woman he said, I will increase your pain of pregnancy, In pain, you will bear children.”
In chapter 12, the messianic prophecy from the book of Isaiah is also utilized, which spoke of a “sign...in the height above...a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son. Likewise, in the present vision, “A Great sign in the heaven, a woman…with child…and she brought forth a son” - (Isaiah 7:10-14).

Thus, the “son” is none other than the Messiah of Israel as promised in the Hebrew scriptures.
  • (Revelation 12:3-4) – “And there appeared another sign in heaven, and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems; and his tail is drawing the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to deliver, that as soon as she brought forth, he might devour her child.”
In Ezekiel, Pharaoh is compared to the “Great Dragon that lies in his rivers,” and to “the dragon in the seas.” The image of “seven heads” brings into view the Old Testament character of Leviathan. God “broke the heads of the dragons on the waters” and “crushed the heads of Leviathan” - (Ezekiel 29:1-3, 32:2, Psalm 74:13-14).

Yahweh promised to “punish Leviathan, the swift Serpent, and Leviathan, the crooked serpent.” In Revelation, the association of the “Dragon” with Pharaoh is appropriate, for imagery from the exodus of Israel and her sojourn in the wilderness is used in the present vision - (Isaiah 27:1, Revelation 12:6-17).

The “ten horns” link the “Dragon” to the “fourth beast” from Daniel that “ascended from the sea.” It also had “ten horns” and “devoured,” and represented an imperial power that persecuted the “saints.”
  • (Daniel 7:7) – “After that, I was looking in the visions of the night when, behold, a fourth beast, terrible and well-hipped and exceeding strong, and it had large teeth of iron, it devoured and broke in pieces, and the residue with its feet it trampled down, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”
The downfall of the “third of the stars” alludes to another vision from Daniel when he saw the “little horn grew great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them.” This was the same “little horn” that appeared on the head of the “fourth beast” - (Daniel 7:8, 8:10).

The “seven heads” of the “Dragon” symbolized its control over the political realms of the earth. Its “seven diadems” represented its claim of universal sovereignty. Its red color stressed its violent nature, just as the “red horse” from the “second seal” was authorized to “take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other” - (Revelation 6:1-8).

It is not clear whether the “stars” represented angels, righteous humans, or both. Elsewhere, “stars” represent “messengers” or “angels.” The verse ends with the “Dragon” poised to “devour” the child.
  • (Revelation 12:5) – “And she brought forth a son, a male, who was to shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron; and her child was caught away to God and to his throne.”
She “brought forth a son, a male” - (eteken huion arsen). This clause echoes Isaiah 66:5-8 when “Zion,” represented as a female figure, “brought forth a male” - (Greek - eteken arsen). Here, “son” or huios has been added to the original clause from Isaiah to make his identity clear – He is the one destined to “shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron,” a clear allusion to the second Psalm:
  • (Psalm 2:6-9) - “Yet I have installed my king on Zion my holy mountain. Let me tell of a decree; Yahweh said to me: You are My son; I, today, have begotten you. Ask of me and let me give nations as your inheritance and as your possession the ends of the earth. YOU WILL shepherd them with a sceptER of iron, as a potter’s vessel you will dash them in pieces.”
This Psalm is messianic and applied to Jesus multiple times in the New Testament. The “son” is the Messiah who was born from the messianic community and his identification is made explicit later in the chapter - (“Now has come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ” – Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5, 5:5, Revelation 19:15).

Satan’s attempt to destroy the child failed when God “seized him toward His throne.” Previously, his installment on the throne was linked to his sacrificial death. Here, the vision portrays his enthronement after his death and resurrection - (Revelation 1:5, 3:21, 5:5-10).
  • (Revelation 12:6) – “And the woman fled into the desert where she has a place prepared of God, that there they should nourish her a thousand, two hundred and sixty days.”
Her flight echoes Israel’s flight from Egypt into the wilderness. She still symbolizes the covenant community, only now, it is formed around the “son.” Following his exaltation, the church began the new exodus into the “wilderness,” only now, pursued by the “Dragon” through his earthly vassals.

Wilderness Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash
Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash

At this point, the Woman is on the earth, and no longer “
in heaven.” The victory of the “son” over the “Dragon” did not remove the covenant community from his pursuit and attacks. However, God protected and “nourished” her in the wilderness.

The “wilderness” is not devoid of evil. Babylon, the “Great Harlot,” is also found in it. And despite her removal, Satan continues to pursue her. The “place prepared for her” points to the same reality as the “sealing” of God’s servants, where God enables her to endure the Devil’s onslaughts - (Revelation 7:1-8, 11:1-2, 17:3).

The woman was nourished for the “twelve-hundred and sixty days,” which is the equivalent of the “time, times, and half a time,” and of the persecution of the “saints” by the “beast” during the “forty-two months.” In Revelation, numbers are symbolic, and it uses three different figures to refer to the same period - (Daniel 7:25, 12:7, Revelation 11:2, 13:5-7).

The chronological references link the flight of the “woman” to the “trampling of the holy city by the nations,” to the ministry of the “two witnesses,” and to the “war against the saints” by the “beast.” Her sojourn in the “wilderness” occurs over the same period - Revelation 11:1-4, 13:4-7).

The “nourishing in the wilderness” is a further link to the “two witnesses” whose ministry resembled that of Elijah, who was provided for in the “wilderness” when God dispatched “ravens to feed him by the brook Cherith” - (1 Kings 17:3-6, Revelation 11:5-6).

The start of the “twelve-hundred and sixty days” coincided with the exaltation of the “son to the throne” and the expulsion of Satan from heaven “to the earth.” Thus, in view is the reality that began with the death, resurrection, and enthronement of the messianic “son.”

Whether the “twelve hundred and sixty days” terminated at some point in the past or still underway remain to be seen. It points to a period of intense “warfare” waged by the “Dragon” against the covenant community. Its “nourishment” takes place in the “wilderness,” the same location where John will see “Babylon, the Great Whore.” However, as the rest of the chapter demonstrates, though protected, the “woman” is not yet completely removed from the attempts by the “Dragon” to destroy her and the “rest of her seed.”




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