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30 December 2018

Woman, Son and Dragon – (Rev 12:1-6)

Woman and the Dragon
(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 crieth out, being in pangs and in anguish to bring forth.”
The noun sémeion or “sign” is related to the verb sémainō rendered “signify” Revelation 1:1 (“and he signified”). The “sign” of a Woman in the sky symbolic, not literal. “Heaven” the same locale where John just saw the sanctuary of God opened and the Ark of his Covenant within (Revelation 11:19).
The description of the “sun and the moon beneath her feet, and crown of twelve stars” alludes to Genesis 37:9; Joseph’s dream in which he saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars render homage to him, with the twelve stars representing the twelve tribes of Israel (Joseph being the twelfth star).
This background indicates the Woman represents the covenant community, the people of God (cp. 7:4-821:12-14). Possibly both the Old and New Testament people of God are intended. Note well, in Revelation 21:12-14, the New Jerusalem incorporates the “names of the twelve tribes of Israel” and the “names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” in its gates, walls, and foundations.
The Woman’s “crown” is a victor’s “wreath” or stephanos, in contrast to the seven “crowns” or diadems worn by the Dragon. Victory “wreaths” are associated with the victory of saints who overcome the Devil (cp. 2:103:11).
The Woman’s labor pains symbolize the persecution of the covenant community, whether in the Old Testament or intertestamental periods, and leading up to the birth of the messianic figure. This image also draws on Genesis 3:15-16: 
[Genesis 3:15-16] - “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children.”
The messianic prophecy from Isaiah 7:10-14 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, this vision portrays a “great sign in the heaven, a woman…with child…and she brought forth a son.”

The Dragon – (12:3-4)

(Revelation 12:3-4) – “And there appeared another sign in heaven; and lo! a great red dragon,—having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads, seven diadems; and his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that, as soon as she should bring forth, he might devour, her child.
Ezekiel compared Pharaoh to the “Great Dragon that lies in his rivers” and to “a dragon in the seas” (Ezekiel 29:1-3, 32:2). The “seven heads” brings into view Leviathan. God “broke the heads of the dragons on the waters” and “crushed the heads of Leviathan” (Psalm 74:13-14).
In a distant future, Yahweh will once more “in that day…punish Leviathan the swift Serpent, and Leviathan the crooked serpent” (Isaiah 27:1). The association of the Dragon with Pharaoh is appropriate; imagery from Israel’s exodus from Egypt into the wilderness will become pronounced in Revelation 12:6-17.
The “ten horns” link the Dragon to the “fourth beast” of Daniel 7:7-8, which had “ten horns” and “devoured.” That beast represented an imperial power that persecuted God’s people.
[Daniel 7:7-8] – “Behold, a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly…it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet…and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”
The downfall of a third of the stars draws on Daniel 8:10, the “little horn” that “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 horn Daniel saw rise among the ten horns of the fourth beast (Daniel 7:8).
Originally, the fourth beast of Daniel’s vision referred to one of the four Macedonian kingdoms that sprang up after the death of Alexander the Great, the Seleucid kingdom.  The “little horn” was one of its more infamous rulers, Antiochus IV, who attempted to annihilate the religion of Israel.
The “seven heads” with seven diadems symbolizes the Dragon’s control of the political realm. The number seven points to completeness. The diadems symbolize the Dragon’s (false) claim of universal sovereignty. In contrast, the true “Lord of lords and King of kings” has “many diadems” (Revelation 19:1219:19-21).
The Dragon’s red color stresses its violent character, just as the red horse was authorized to “take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other” (Revelation 6:4).
It is not clear whether the “stars” that are cast down represent angels, righteous humans, or both. Elsewhere, “stars” represent “messengers” or “angels” assigned to each church (1:20). The passage ends with the Dragon poised to “devour” the Woman’s child at its birth.

The Woman Gives Birth – (12:5)

(Revelation 12:5) – “And she brought forth a son, a manchild, who was about to shepherd all the nations with a sceptre of iron; and her child was caught away unto God and unto his throne.
The Woman “brought forth a son, a male” (eteken huion arsen). The clause is derived from Isaiah 66:7; “Zion,” represented as a female figure, “brought forth a male” (Greek - eteken arsen). Revelation now adds “son” or huios to the clause to make his identity clear.
The Woman’s son is to “shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron,” a clear allusion to Psalm 2:7-9 (“You are my Son, today I have begotten you…You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel”).
The second Psalm is messianic and applied frequently in the New Testament to Jesus (e.g., Acts 13:33Hebrews 1:55:5, cp. Revelation 19:15). The Woman’s “son” is the Messiah who was born out of the messianic community.  The identification is made explicit in verse 10 (“Now has come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ”).
The Dragon’s attempt to destroy the child fails. This attack occurred when Satan attempted to have Jesus killed. However, by resurrecting him, his death turned into victory over the Dragon.
Upon “birth,” the “son” is “seized toward God and His throne.” The Son’s installment on God’s Throne is linked elsewhere to his sacrificial death (cp. 3:215:5-10). The present passage does not describe a yet future enthronement of the Son but looks back to his past installment following his death and resurrection. 
By his resurrection, Jesus became the “Firstborn of the Dead” and was exalted to rule from God’s throne (Acts 2:33Romans 1:4Hebrews 1:3, Revelation 1:5. Cp. Colossians 1:18).

The Woman’s Flight and the 1,260 Days – (12:6)

(Revelation 12:6) – “And, the woman, fled into the desert, where she hath a place prepared of God, that, there, they should nourish her a thousand, two hundred, and sixty days.
The Woman’s flight evokes images from Israel’s exodus from Egypt to the wilderness. She continues to symbolize the covenant community but, now, the messianic community formed around the “son.” Following the exaltation of the son, the church began a new exodus out into the “wilderness.”
The Woman is now on the earth, no longer seen “in heaven.” The victory of the “son” over the Dragon does not remove the covenant community from the earth. Instead, God protects and “nourishes” her in the Wilderness.
The “Wilderness” is not “heaven” or a place devoid of evil. Babylon, the “Great Harlot,” is also found in the “wilderness” (Revelation 17:3). Moreover, despite the Woman’s removal to the “wilderness,” the Dragon is able to pursue her and to attempt to overwhelm her.
The “place prepared for her” points to a reality like the “sealing” of God’s servants and the “measuring of the Sanctuary,” a “place” to enable her to endure the onslaughts of the Dragon (Revelation 7:1-8, 11:1-2).
The Woman is nourished for a “thousand, two hundred, and sixty days.” This period is equivalent to a “time, times and half a time.” This last clause links the period to Daniel’s prediction that the “little horn” would “speak words against the Most-High and wear out the saints of the Most-High…and they shall be given into his hand” (Daniel 7:2512:7).
The three-and-one-half year period is referenced here, not to identify a “literal” forty-two months period to occur prior to the end of the age, but to link this vision to Daniel’s prophecy of a tribulation for God’s people.
Numbers in the book of Revelation are used figuratively. Further, this period is described elsewhere as forty-two months (11:2, 13:5).  Forty-two months and twelve hundred and sixty days both equal the length of a 360-day lunar calendar.  That Revelation uses two different figures to define the same period suggests strongly that the numbers are figurative.
The three-and-and-half years of the Woman’s wilderness sojourn link it to the “measuring of the Sanctuary” and to the two witnesses (11:1-3). Her flight occurs in the same period as when the Sanctuary is “measured” and the two witnesses prophesy. The reference to twelve hundred and sixty days links especially to the prophetic “ministry” of the two witnesses (“they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days”).
God “nourishing her in the Wilderness” links the woman to the two witnesses whose ministry resembles that of Elijah (11:5-6). Elijah was provided for by God Who sent “ravens to feed him by the brook Cherith” in the wilderness of Israel (1 Kings 17:3-6).
Likewise, the forty-two months in which the Sanctuary is “measured” but its outer courts are trampled by the nations, parallels the forty-two months during which the Beast is authorized to slander God and those who “tabernacle in heaven” (13:5-6).
The start of this twelve hundred and sixty days coincides with the exaltation of the Son to the Throne. The period ends when the two witnesses have “completed their testimony” and the Beast “slays them” (11:7). Likewise, unable to destroy the Woman during the twelve hundred and sixty days, the enraged Dragon makes war with the “rest of her seed” (12:17). After the forty-two months, the Beast “makes war with the saints and overcomes them” (13:7-10).

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