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Let’s begin by reading Revelation 12:1-5, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:  And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.  And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.”  Chapters 12-14 of Revelation form one great prophesy.  It will be difficult to go into much detail here, but I will try to give an abbreviated explanation of the woman and the dragon.

To begin with, the word ‘wonder’ in verse one, is properly translated ‘sign’, which indicates a specific meaning and object.  The woman is presented as being clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars.  We find in scripture the thought of government linked with the sun, moon, and stars.  The sun rules the day; the moon and stars, as lesser lights, rule the night.  With governmental authority on the earth, the woman is given to us as a sign, or type of the nation of Israel, God’s earthly people.  The twelve stars that make up her crown would indicate the twelve tribes of Israel.

Verse two brings before us this woman as being in great pain of birth of a child.  The identity of the child is obvious when we consider verse 5 of this chapter.  It says, “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron…”  The child is Christ, Himself.  The verse is in reference to Psalms 2:7-9 which speaks prophetically of the Lord Jesus.  It says, “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.  Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”  It may seem strange that Israel would be referred to as travailing in birth and in great pain when we consider how that Christ was born in obscurity and was rejected by the Jewish nation.  We can understand this better in light of Isaiah 66:7 which says, “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.”  The travailing and great pain is in reference to Israel’s coming hour of trial…the Great Tribulation period.  It was before her travailing and great pain that she gave birth to this man child, the Lord Jesus Christ.  So far, the travail of Israel will occur at least two thousand years after the birth of Christ, for the tribulation does not begin until the rapture of the Church.

The next sign we have is the great dragon.  We don’t have to guess his identity.  Verse 9 tells us, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world…”  The great dragon is Satan.

So, what are we to learn from these verses?  Much of the history of Israel is given here without any explanation of the time gaps that are obvious.  Israel is represented as the mother of the man child, who is the Lord Jesus.  As soon as He was born, Satan, using King Herod tried to devour, or kill, the Lord Jesus.  Under the pretense of desiring to worship the new king, Herod asked the wise men to report to him when they had found the child.  The wise men were warned of God not to return to Herod.  We read in Matthew 2:16, “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.”  He thought that if he executed all the young children in Bethlehem that were two years old and under, surely he would kill this newborn king.  Although Christ was later crucified, according to scripture, He was raised from the dead and was caught up to God and to His throne, as we read in Revelation 12:4.  This portion makes clear to us who the real enemy of God is; it is Satan, the one who hated and sought to destroy the Lord.  The prophesy then brings the reader to the timeline of the Tribulation period where we read in Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”  This speaks of Satan being cast down to the earth in the middle of the Tribulation period.

There is much more that could be said about this portion and the importance of this prophesy, but I trust that this will be enough to help you identify those mentioned here and compel you to study this wondrous book.  I will recommend a couple of commentaries on the book of Revelation that I have found to be sound, clear, and understandable.  The first is, “Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ” by Walter Scott.  The second one is “Lectures on the Revelation” by H.A. Ironside.  While there are many commentaries on the book of Revelation, some good and some not so good, I heartily recommend these two commentaries.  (76.3)