John has eaten the little scroll and measured the temple. The two witnesses have completed their mission and ascended to heaven. As stated in 11:14, the second woe (sixth trumpet) is past, and the third and final woe (seventh trumpet) is coming quickly. At the sounding of the seventh trumpet and in preparation for the pouring out of the seven bowls and final judgment in chapters 16-18, John sees a series of visions and signs that center on Satan’s persecution of God’s people. The first vision is that of worship in heaven and the appearance of the heavenly temple. Following this vision are the signs of the woman and the dragon.
Did You Know...?
1. Ark of His covenant (11:19): “The OT ark was a chest of acacia wood (Dt 10:1-2). It symbolized the throne or presence of God among his people.”
2. Dragon (12:3): “In the OT they are normally used metaphorically to depict the enemies of God and of Israel (see Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1; Eze 29:3).”
- Sounding of the Seventh Trumpet (11:15-19)
- Voices in heaven (11:15)
- Worship of the twenty-four elders (11:16-18)
- Opening of the heavenly temple (11:19)
- Sign of the Woman and the Dragon (12:1-17)
- Birth of the male child and fleeing to the wilderness (12:1-6)
- War in heaven and defeat of the dragon and his angels (12:7-9)
- Praise of victory (12:10-12)
- Dragon’s persecution and protection of the woman (12:13-17)
What is the theme of the declaration in verse 15?Hide Answer
God’s ultimate and everlasting reign.
Compare verse 18 with Psalm 2. Why were the nations angry?Hide Answer
The nations of the world, as instruments of Satan, are hostile to God. Instead of repenting, they are outraged at God for sending the calamities on the earth and at His children for remaining faithful to God (cf 16:8-11). Chapters 12 and 13 further depict this fierce hostility.
What actions will God take as He reigns?Hide Answer
Judgment of the dead, reward of God’s servants, destruction of those who destroy the earth (the destruction should refer to moral corruption by evildoers).
Where is the temple in verse 19 located?Hide Answer
What follow the appearance of the temple and the ark? What do they represent?Hide Answer
Lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail. These images are precursors of great calamities (8:5; 16:18).
What is the significance of the temple and the ark of the covenant? Compare this passage with 8:3-5.Hide Answer
In the OT, the temple and the ark of the covenant represented God’s presence and covenant with His people. The opening of the temple and the appearance of the ark of the covenant signifies that God has fulfilled His redemptive covenant with His people, and the believers now have full access into God’s everlasting kingdom. Just as the offering up of incense on the golden altar preceded the judgments in 8:3-5, here, the appearance of the temple and ark of the covenant precedes the judgments. While the offering up of the saints’ prayers resulted in the trumpet judgments to vindicate the saved ones, the completion of the salvation of God’s people brings world history to an end with the final and most severe judgments (15:58).
How does this paragraph relate to the subsequent chapters?Hide Answer
This paragraph is a synopsis of the remaining chapters in which God will remove all evil and establish His everlasting kingdom. The nations’ anger and God’s wrath will be seen in the Satanic activities and bowl judgments (ch. 12, 13, 16). God will destroy those who destroy the earth, including Babylon, the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon (19:2,20; 20:10). The judgment of the dead will take place in 20:11-15. God will also reward His servants in the new heaven and new earth (21:1-4; 22:3-5).
What lessons can we gather from this paragraph about God’s sovereign control and kingdom?Hide Answer
All power and authority in this world must surrender to God’s sovereign rule. Despite temporary oppositions of evil doers, God will bring about justice and order. Therefore we must remain faithful servants of God until the time of the final reward. We should also give thanks to God Almighty for the coming of His kingdom.
What clues suggest that we should interpret this chapter as symbolic of spiritual things?Hide Answer
For the first time in revelation, John calls the visions “signs” (1,3). Signs in the Bible are events or objects that serve to indicate greater spiritual truths. Likewise, the visions of the woman and the dragon teach us about the intense struggles of spiritual powers. The passage clearly states its symbolic nature. The dragon is the Devil and Satan. The context directs us to interpret the images as symbols of spiritual things.
What is God’s role in this cosmic struggle?Hide Answer
He receives the male child to heaven (5); He prepares a place for the woman (6); by His blood the believers have overcome (11); He gives wings to the woman and nourishes her in the wilderness (14).
In what ways did the dragon fail in his endeavors?Hide Answer
He was not able to devour the woman’s child (4,5); he was not able to hurt the woman (6,14); he lost the war in heaven and was hurled down (7-9); the earth swallowed up the water he spewed out (16).
What do the dragon’s works and failure teach us?Hide Answer
Satan is determined to hurt us in anyway he can. But his destiny is doomed and he has only a short time (12). Knowing that he has been defeated in heaven, we as believers need to endure persecutions and sufferings to the end regardless of how fierce Satan’s work seems to be.
Who does the woman represent? (cf. 2Cor 11:2; Gal 4:26)Hide Answer
Since the OT, the Bible has compared God’s people to a woman (Ezek ch. 16; Hos 2:19-20). In the NT, God’s people, which consists of believers in Christ, is the church, also known as a woman or a bride. So the woman here should represent God’s people of all ages whom Christ has redeemed with His blood (cf. Rev 12:11). That she is the object of Satan’s intense persecution also implies that the woman represents the believers, since Satan’s persecution of believers has been the consistent pattern from the beginning of Revelation.
Describe the appearance of the woman and explain its significance.Hide Answer
She was clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars (1). This picture represents the church’s heavenly splendor and authority which God bestows on her (cf Eph 3:21; 5:27). Being clothed with the sun represents having the righteousness of Christ (Gal 3:27; Rom 13:14; Mal 4:2). Having the moon under her feet may signify her authority over the power of Hades (Mt 16:18). The garland of twelve stars refers to the complete number of chosen people who manifest God’s glory in the church (1Thess 2:19; Rev 21:9-14).
In view of verse 5, who is the child that was born through the pains of labor? (cf. 2:26-27; 19:15; 20:6; 22:5; Ps 2:9; Dan 7:27)Hide Answer
From the references pertaining to ruling with “a rod of iron,” we see that it is the Lord Jesus Christ and the believers who overcome who will rule all nations. The child represents believers who have attained spiritual maturity and who will reign with Christ (20:6; cf. Gal 4:19); they are caught up to God and protected from Satan’s harm (1Jn 5:18).
Who is the dragon, according to verse 9?Hide Answer
He is that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.
What is the dragon’s appearance and nature?Hide Answer
Great and fiery red, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His size and color is symbolic of his ruthless power and murderous acts. His heads, horns, and diadems represent his earthly authority, which he will work through the beast in 13:1. Note the difference between his earthly authority and the woman’s heavenly authority.
What are the dragon’s works?Hide Answer
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth (4); he intended to devour the child (4); he and his angels fought with Michael and his angels (7); he deceives the whole world (9); he accused the brethren before God day and night (10); he persecuted the woman (13) and spewed water out of his mouth after the woman (15); and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring (17).
What does it mean that the dragon’s tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth? (cf. Isa 9:15; Dan 8:10,24; Gen 15:5; Mt 24:11,24)Hide Answer
According to Daniel 8:10,24, the casting down of the stars to earth represents the oppressor’s destruction of the holy people. With this passage as a reference, the casting of the stars to the earth in Rev 12 probably refers to Satan’s oppression of believers, possibly through the works of false prophets in the end time. But the extent of his persecution is limited, as indicated by the fraction “one-third”.
Why is the dragon so hostile to the woman?Hide Answer
Since the dragon lost the battle in heaven, his last weapon is to hurt God’s people on earth. Knowing that his time is short, he is desperate, and goes all out in his final struggle against those who belong to God.
What period is the 1,260 days of refuge? (cf. 11:2-3; 12:14; Dan 9:27)Hide Answer
This is half of the tribulation period (3 1/2 years according to Dan 9:27). While God allows Satan to persecute the saints, He will also sustain them through the tribulation.
What does the wilderness symbolize? What impression does the wilderness give you?Hide Answer
Although the wilderness provides safety, it is by no means a place of luxury and comfort. On the contrary, it is a place of discipline and testing, where God’s people learn to trust and obey God (Deut 8:2-6). The tribulation period will be a purification process for the believers so that they may devote themselves to God wholeheartedly and overcome the works of Satan.
Why is the hurling down of the dragon inserted at this place in the passage? Relate it to 11:17.Hide Answer
The scene of the heavenly battle puts the struggle in its proper perspective. Satan’s tactics and attack, however fierce and menacing, are a losing battle. He has been hurled down and is soon to be destroyed. God’s triumph over Satan shows that God has indeed exercised His great power and reigned.
Where did the war take place? Is there any significance to this?Hide Answer
Heaven. The battle between good and evil is not just on earth but is decided in heaven. While believers on earth wrestle with the forces of evil (Eph 6:12), they know that the battle has already been won in heaven. Because we know that Christ has overcome and we are not alone, we can “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph 6:10).
How can we overcome the dragon? Explain your answer.Hide Answer
1) By the blood of the Lamb. It is only because of Christ’s sacrifice that we stand free from Satan’s accusation (Rom 8:31-33) and from the grip of Satan’s hand (Heb 2:14,15). We must trust the Lord, confess our sins before Him, and ask Him to deliver us from all evil so that we may be kept pure and blameless.
2) By the word of our testimony. We need to keep God’s commandment and our confession of Jesus Christ (17), and we must do so faithfully to the very end, even if it means giving up our lives (11). Persistent faith enables us to overcome and be saved (3:10; 1Tim 6:12-14; Mt 24:13).
What does the hurling down of the dragon mean for believers and for the world?Hide Answer
Having lost his place in heaven, Satan now uses the world as his battle field. The world falls into great turmoil and becomes a place of darkness, and the believers come under great hostility and oppression.
Is verse 14 a repeat of a previous verse in the chapter? What does this parallel tell us about the meaning of “a time and times and half a time”?Hide Answer
The fleeing to the wilderness, the feeding by God, and the period of a time and times and half a time find their parallels in verse 6. (A time and times and half a time = 1 + 2 + 1/2 = 3 1/2 years = 1,260 days).
What does the dragon’s relentless attack of God’s offspring tell us?Hide Answer
We need to be ready and watchful (1Pet 5:8 9). Unless we hold firmly to the Lord and be faithful to the end, we would be swept away by Satan’s persistent deception and persecution.
How real is Satan to you? Do you see his works? In what ways does he vehemently oppose believers today?