Before I get going, I want to start with three important truths: First, the book of Revelation has many symbols that are difficult to understand. Second, every symbol can be understood through an understanding of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16–17). Third, just because every symbol can be understood does not mean that I understand it. We must approach texts like Revelation 12 humbly with open hands.
The three main figures of Revelation 12 are the woman, the child, and the dragon. The dragon is very easy to place, verse 9 tells us that it’s Satan. It seems likely that his tail that swept down a third of the stars refers to the fallen angels that serve as Satan’s army of demons.
The child is referred to as “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” which is a strong reference to the Messiah of Psalm 2. Although the dragon sought to devour the child, he was “caught up.” Satan could not defeat Christ in either the temptations, or on the Cross.
The identity of the woman is much more debated. Although some of the language might lead us to think the woman is Mary, there are two main reasons why this seems unlikely. First, John tells us this is a “great sign” so she is symbolic. Second, she’s clothed with the sun, moon, and a crown of 12 stars—so, probably not an actual person.
Most protestant Christians believe the woman refers to either the Church, or Israel. Personally, I think the woman represents Israel for two main reasons. The link between Revelation and Genesis is strong and well-documented. In Genesis 37:9–11, Joseph dreamed of a sun, moon, and stars, which his father, Jacob, understood clearly, “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” Jacob, later renamed Israel, had twelve sons that formed the twelve tribes of Israel. So, the first reason to view the woman as a symbol for Israel is that her clothing points us back to the birth of the nation. Second, the woman gave birth to Christ. Christ came from Israel, and the church came from Christ. If the woman represents the church, the order is backwards. Although some look at verse 17 as a reason to view the woman as the Church (those who hold to the testimony of Jesus), we must remember that the Church came from Israel as well (Romans 1:16).
So, what can we learn from this passage? First, God is in charge. Satan cannot thwart God’s power. Second, I won’t get into the description of Satan except to say that the diadems above his head point to the real and true authority God granted Satan to rule on earth. Third, Satan’s time is short and running out (12). He will cause as much harm and conflict as he can while he has time. Fourth, those who love Jesus are not exempt from the wrath of Satan (17). This does not happen outside of God’s authority, but Satan is clearly making war.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need the reminder that God is in charge and He will be victorious. Revelation 12 is a crazy way to get us to that point, but the point remains the same. The dragon will be killed and the damsel will be saved.
If you want to go a little deeper, check out this sermon by my previous seminary professor.
By: Tyler Short
Thanks for your insights Tyler.
"sometimes I just need the reminder that God is in charge and He will be victorious"
Amen brother! I don't want to get lost in the weeds with all the symbolism in Revelation.
I like what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:20-25. We preach Christ crucified. (v.23a)
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (v.25) These are the only responses we need if skeptics read Revelation and say it sounds like foolishness.
Thank you Tyler and staff for leading us through Revelation.
Thanks for tackling the hard to understand scriptures and helping me better follow them. This is great stuff Tyler short!
Thanks Tyler! I often read Revelation and get overwhelmed and confused. I appreciate how your commentary helps us to see big picture, that God is victorious over satan. Like you, sometimes I just need to be reminded that God always wins and is for us.
Also, how cool to see another example of how Scripture always points back to and supports Scripture!
I totally agree, Tyler. The woman is Israel, and reveals what will happen to the remnant of Jews that become believers in the second half of Jacob's Troubles (Tribulation). God will protect her. Bless the nation of Israel.
Thanks Tyler for breaking down and explaining all of the rich symbolism here! So helpful!
Thank you so much for all the details about this passage. I really appreciate it!
Thanks for the good commentary today Tyler and I really enjoyed the sermon too.