St. John’s vision of the woman flying into the wilderness, in Revelation 12, is another depiction from the little book given to John to prophesy of this most significant period of time. This time frame is variably expressed as 42 months, or 1260 days, or 3 ½ years, and time, times, and half a time – all different ways of rendering the same number of prophetic days – when the true saints of God are to endure the tribulation of the antichrist power.
The first representation of the same period is rendered as two witnesses in Chapter 11, which illustrates the remnant church giving powerful testimony against the corrupt Roman Church, involving their martyrdom, but also the extraordinary power of God manifested through His witnesses during this time. In the discourse of The Two Witnesses, we clarified the meaning of each aspect by drawing from sensible patterns of prophesy language and prophetic history, which verified that the 1260 prophetic days are to be understood as 1260 literal years.
Now the second representation of this same period of time is illustrated in chapter 12 as a woman flying into the wilderness, fleeing from a dragon who pursues her demise. The opening verse reads, Now, a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
At face value, the details may seem to indicate the woman merely represents Israel, as Israel had often been depicted as a woman, and being clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet illustrates divine sanctification, and on her head a garland of twelve stars – may certainly represent the twelve tribes of Israel. But we will see there is more to it than that.
Verse 2: Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
Certainly, Israel cried out in labor and in pain to give birth to the Messiah, yet we must ask the question – How is that a new revelation to the Church at the time John received this vision? The history of Israel was already common knowledge, and the gospel of the Messiah she birthed was already spreading abroad. Certainly this prophesy is strongly alluding to Israel and her born Messiah, yet not limited to Israel, but to God’s holy people in general, who had then proliferated from one nation to many nations – from the original covenant to the New Covenant of Christ; The New Testament Woman, that is the Church, with her garland of twelve stars signifying the doctrine of the Twelve Apostles. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth (Gal 4:19, 1 Thes 2:7) – that is to bear forth her offspring of natal saints, which was done under extreme duress of persecution from that dragon, which we will now get to.
Verse 3: And another sign appeared in heaven: Behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. This portrayal of Satan illustrated as a dragon with seven crowned heads and ten horns represents the Roman Kingdom used as the Devil’s vessel of choice, which will be further revealed in the next prophesy of the two beasts of chapter 13 and the explanation of it by the angel in chapter 17.
Verse 4: His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born. Referencing the heavenly rebellion of Lucifer described here as – His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth; And still making strong allusion to Israel about to bear forth the Christ – as King Herod was satanically inspired to destroy the newborn Messiah by slaughtering all children below the age of two in the region of Bethlehem (Matt 2:16). Though the principal application of this vision of St. John is to the New Testament Church, which was laboring in peril to perpetuate her offspring to conquer the nations with the power of the gospel.
Verse 5: She bore a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and His throne.
God’s first chosen holy people, Israel, bearing forth the Messiah, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron – many scholars had interpreted this prophesy partly fulfilled when Constantine conquered the pagan powers of Rome and exalted the Christian religion to be the dominating entity of the Roman World to rule the nations with a rod of iron. This could only amount to a limited fulfillment, or foreshadow pointing to a more thorough fulfillment upon the millennial reign of Christ (Rev 19:15).
Verse 5 also recounts the ascension of Christ, Who then sat at the right hand of the Father, rendered as – her child was caught up to God and His throne. This marked the advancement of God’s holy people of the New Testament era, who would spiritually conquer with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verse 6: Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Here the prophesy gets to the 1260 year time frame, whereby the previous verses had recounted the early half of the New Testament era. Arriving at this prophetic epoch of such significance, St. John sees a representation of the Church in peril, and fleeing into the wilderness. Such was the case for the Waldenses and Albigenses, who were originally referred to as Vaudois, meaning people of the valley. Those valleys in the wilderness were often referred to as the valley of tears, for the great atrocities wreaked upon those people of God. And we must not forget those few saints amidst the mainstream church, who were in a different type of strange wilderness of peril.
Verse 7: And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; And the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
Here is a dramatic scene of immense spiritual warfare, which certainly manifests into the physical realm in the form of the saints bearing bold testimony of the Gospel and abandonment of all worldly treasures for total devotion to God, which was confronted with wars, crusades, massacres, intrigues, inquisitions, tortures, etc. Even with such brutal opposition, the true saints of God had mirrored the same victory won by their Lord, premised upon the greatest spiritual battle of all, which took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus, in his human nature, struggled to submit to his final stretch to the cross as he desperately prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:36-47 ~ Mark 14:32-43 ~ Luke 22:40-47 ~ John 18:1-3).
…but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. Such a monumental defeat of Satan’s rebellion upon the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ would be perpetuated through His Church as they followed in His very footsteps.
Verse 9: So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Clarifying here the identity of the dragon, that serpent of old, who was lurking in the first garden, Eden, where he first deceived man through the first woman, no question this is Satan, who deceives the whole world. This spiritual revolution which shook the heavens and the earth resulted in the triumph of Jesus Christ. Here, this great event is emphasized with repetition by beginning this verse with the great dragon was cast out and ending with he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
And the same kind of victory was repeated through the Christian Church on so many levels – from the martyrs – to Constantine the Great – to the Protestant Reformers & others – all who triumphed in the same bold & sacrificial manner as Christ; so were those rebel spirits cast down from their high places, who will be fully contained upon the consummation of God’s Kingdom during His millennial reign.
We know the time when Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven was at the same time as the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ – because the following verse celebrates this time as the time of salvation:
Verse 10: Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come! For the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.
Heavenly exultation resounds from such a triumph of Christ and His Kingdom. Before this epic victory, Satan still had access to heaven as he accused them (the saints) before God day and night. Revelation 12:7-10 ~ Job 1:6 ~ Job 2:1 ~Zechariah 3:1
No doubt the accusations were in conjunction to God’s very law, thus being convicted of our violations and sentenced to death; yet Christ having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross… (Col 2:14); and it was at that time …when He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, having triumphed over them through Him. – Colossians 2:15
That public spectacle was no doubt the grand display of Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven with devastating defeat – upon the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, then perpetuated in the earthly sphere by His Church.
Verse 11: And they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Three points listed here explaining how they conquered him:
- by the blood of the Lamb – Christ, having come in the flesh of man to live the perfect life, then qualified His blood to be deemed a perfect sacrifice. Thus, John the baptist, pointing to Jesus Christ, properly proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). So it is by the redemptive strength of His blood which takes away sin, that the accuser no longer has anything to accuse us of, as such accomplishment of Christ lays legitimate claim to ultimate power & authority of both heaven & earth by which the saints draw their strength to perpetuate the same victory throughout the New Testament era.
- by the word of their testimony – by testifying of such powerful truth, they asserted the power & authority reclaimed by the blood of Christ to disarm the spirits of darkness and tear down their strongholds.
- they did not love their lives to the death – in concert with their Savior, they denied themselves, and many even sealed their testimony with their own blood, resulting in ultimate victory for the saints of God.
Such spiritual warfare waged by the saints was only successful by tapping the spiritual arsenal of Christ by adopting His same mindset as spoken in 1st Peter 4:1-2: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mindset, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God”
Jesus had groomed His original disciples with such a mindset to achieve decisive victory: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
Embracing this mindset empowers all the saints to conquer the dragon, and indeed the Devil is continually conquered by those who arm themselves with the same mind as Christ; Even when Satan had physically overcome them and destroyed their bodies, they were yet spiritually conquering him with the same mind of Christ, who would be willing to suffer, even unto death! It has been this exact Christ-like attitude which has empowered the martyrs of Christ to be so bold and courageous in the face of death. Such an attitude creates nothing but a losing game for Satan and ultimate victory for the saints of God!
This concept is as existential as it gets, being a principle which Christ followers live and die by. The Apostles perfectly harmonize to the same tune of Christ when declaring, “Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!” –Romans 8:36-37
Reciting verse 11 again, And they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. This is exactly the same as what the two witnesses accomplished – because the woman and the witnesses are really one in the same – both renderings represent the remnant of faithful devotees to Christ.
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”, declared Jesus to the first apostles who were sent forth with the Gospel (Mat 10:18). Such a crashing effect upon the Devil’s earthly dominions would continue throughout the New Testament era.
God’s elect were also empowered by knowing what was on the other side of their suffering:
“Beloved, do not be surprised by the fiery trial which tests you, as if some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share in Christ’s suffering, so you may rejoice in the revelation of His glory. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” – 1st Peter 4:12-14
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:16-18
Continuing with verse 12: Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!
Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the Devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows his time is short.
This concluding verse of the loud heavenly voice of exultation rejoices that heaven has been purged of this menacing element; but declares a daunting ‘woe’ to the earth where the devil will concentrate his powers for his remaining window of time.
Verse 13: Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
Besides the heavenly spectacle of the Devil being cast down, there was the earthly spectacle of him being cast down from his high place upon the Roman Empire through the providential rod of Constantine. Then, being expelled from his earthly dominion, Satan employed the fifth column strategy to conquer from within, by becoming the very fabric of what he determined to defeat. Seizing control of the Christian Church & State, he was once again armed to persecute the true saints of God, but this time with the power of the empire as well as the power of the Christian religion.
Verse 14: But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time.
This illustration of the wings of a great eagle reminds us of the encouraging verse of Isaiah 40:31 – “…those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Such a fitting passage to this part of the prophecy which displays the multiple provisions of salvation, strength, sanctuary, renewal, nourishment, and growth. The Vaudois are next to come to mind as they were so providentially provided for within the valleys and mountains of Piedmont and surrounding regions where their communities thrived & flourished.
…for a time, times and half a time – this being the first time in St. John’s Revelation that the 1260 year period is rendered as time, times, and half a time, just as it is in Daniel 7:25, which confirms the vision of Daniel, concerning the antichrist power, relates to this same vision of John.
Verse 15: So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.
Here we see the animated design of prophesy language illustrating the persecuting powers of Satan as an overwhelming flood, which came in the form of crusades, inquisitions, massacres, and such from Papal Rome. This illustration of a raging flood is yet another motif of prophesy established through past prophets to portray an unstoppable invasion: Jer 46:7, 47:2, Is 59:19, 8:7, Ez 13:13, Psalm 69:1-2, 15, 124:4-5, Dan 9:26, 11:22
Verse 16: But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
In a literal sense, the earth helped the woman with extensive wilderness lands throughout the rugged mountains & valleys of the Alps and surrounding regions, providing a labyrinth of sanctuaries and strongholds to swallow up the flood which the dragon spewed out of his mouth. The persecuted Vaudois were well insulated by such rugged terrain which proved to be extremely difficult to penetrate.
Still, there is yet a figurative fulfillment to this help from the earth. The Vaudois, who became known as the Waldenses, endured to the time of the Protestant Reformation, when the tides were turned once again for those proclaiming the true gospel to have earthly dominion. Thus, the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
Protestant nations used their political & military power to persuade the Papal Princes to stand back from their assaults upon the battered Waldensians and rallied to their aid with needed provisions. Powerful men like Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange were protectors of these humble saints who had, in many times past, been compelled to fly into the wilderness.
Verse 17: And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the remnant of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Such a loss of power for the Devil’s Roman Kingdom provoked the wrath of Satan to lash out intensely towards the Church of the Reformation, as history shows. Yet, the fundamental failure of the Reformation was in keeping a power structure similar to the Roman Church – by retaining a hierarchical leadership structure which relied on the power of the state to enforce its ecclesiastical order. Such a worldly paradigm would be easy for the Devil to exploit in order to turn his wrath against those minority Protestant groups, such as the Hussites, Anabaptists, and other independent groups, who would not have secular influences governing their faith.
Thus, mainline Protestants, also known as Magisterial Reformers, with the same secular powers they used to defend themselves and the Waldensians against the Roman Church, were used to persecute the minority groups, known as Radical Reformers, who remained independent from the state and institutional church paradigm; Rather to follow the New Testament model of servant leadership consisting of co-equal elders & deacons who themselves were led by none other than the Word & Spirit of God – who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The wrath of the dragon to make war with the remnant of her offspring – relentlessly continued into the modern era. Besides outright war, the chief strategy of the Jesuit Counter-Reformation was covert by employing infiltration & subterfuge tactics to regain influence over the Reformers and control of civil powers, education, media, resources, and setting up multinational intelligence agencies.
The Thirty Years War was devastating for both Protestant and Papal states, but more so for Rome. Furthermore, the Napoleonic Wars brought an end to the Holy Roman Empire and demise of Papal dominion. This was a time when the papacy became powerless and languished in what seemed to be a dying condition.
However, the beast was subdued for a time but was not willing to die. Besides the massive exploits by the Jesuits, a most significant Catholic dignitary by the likes of Eugenio Pacelli did more to catapult the Roman Church back to world dominance than any other single person. By codifying canon law, he implemented a whole new dimension of concordat strategy which would position the Roman Church as a key player in world politics. In other words, papal dominion was regained by his use of legally binding contracts with the nations.
Such shrewd diplomacy contributed to the outbreak of World War I, and empowered Hitler with the legal & political means to power. On the eve of WWII, Eugenio Pacelli was crowned with great pomp as Pope Pius XII, who years prior had restructured the Papal Church to be more of a pyramid power structure than it had ever been, with himself then at the very apex. Such ambition not only led to his super-concordat with Hitler, but also positioned his collusion with all of the Fascist dictators: Anton Pavelic, Francisco Franco, Antonio Salizar, Engelbert Dollfuss, Juan Peron, Benito Mussolini, and Engelbert Dollfuss. Under the cover of WWII chaos, such powers destroyed hundreds of thousands of Protestants & Orthodox Christians.
Such risky business almost totally exposed the Vatican as the world’s epicenter of evil. Thus, it was wise for Rome to openly change her strategy with Vatican Council II, which ceased from overt opposition against her opponents, to a more seductive approach. With such success of Rome’s unity movement, this strategy has proved to be most effective as nearly all world religions as well as mainstream Protestants are now kissing the Pope’s ring and buying right into mysticism.
While this vision of the woman flying into the wilderness is primarily presenting the 1260 year tribulation period of the latter days, it also makes such strong allusion to Israel and the advent of her Messiah that we have to consider both time periods, as well as some other highlights of the Church age. Though this may tend to be somewhat confusing, it seems the design of the vision intends to display how Christ’s Church continues to perpetuate the same kind of victory that He achieved, through His blood, testimony and self-denial.
Besides the discourse of this chapter, this whole exposition of the Revelation has given clarity to the scriptural parameters which provide guidance for correct interpretation of prophesy. Understanding the woman merely representing Israel misses what was intended by the Spirit of prophesy; Or interpreting the woman to be Mary, as the Eastern Orthodox Church believes, overlooks those basic principles of interpreting prophesy which we have so considered throughout this series.
This concludes The Woman Flying into the Wilderness of Revelation 12. The next chapter gives a third representation of this 1260 year time frame, primarily concentrating on the persecuting power of this period, rendered as The Two Beasts.
– Word & Spirit of God, Who Was and Is and Is to come
– Moses Lowman – “Paraphrases and Notes on the Revelation of St. John“
– John Clark Ridpath – ‘Ridpath’s Universal History’
– Charles Daubuz – “A Perpetual Commentary on the Revelation of St. John“
– E H Broadbent – “The Pilgrim Church”
– John Gill – “Gill’s Exposition of the Bible“
– Thomas Newton – “Dissertations of the Prophesies” – Volumes 1-3
– Henry Fliedner – ‘The Martyrdom of a People’ or ‘The Vaudois of Piedmont and Their History‘
– Albert Barnes – “Barnes’ Notes on the Entire Bible
– Theodor Griesinger – ‘The Jesuits: Their Complete History’
– Peter D eRosa – ‘Vicars of Christ: ‘The Dark Side of The Papacy’
– Avro Manhattan – ‘The Vatican Holocaust‘
– Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Archive
– Adam Clark– “Clark’s Commentary on the Bible“
– E. Boyd Barrett – ‘The Jesuit Enigma’
– John Cornwall – ‘Hitler’s Pope’
– Ian Paisley – ‘The Pope is the Antichrist‘
– Augustus Toplady – ‘The Road To Rome’
– John Foxe – ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’
– Joseph Benson – “Benson’s Commentary on Revelation”
– Kenneth Scott Latourette – ‘A History of Christianity’