Revelation Chapter Twelve Part I

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun

Revelation 12:1 “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:”

Here, John describes a “great wonder” in heaven. We know from Rev 4:1-2, that John is in heaven, not bodily, but “in the spirit.”

If we look at the Greek text underlying this verse (12:1), we find that the word rendered “wonder” by some translators is σημειον, semeion (say-me’-on), which is a noun meaning “a sign, mark, token, or miracle with a spiritual end and purpose.” Many translations render this word “sign.” We confidently state that the verse is more understandable and more in context if we state it this way: “And a great sign appeared in heaven.” The word appears seven times in Revelation; each sign portends a great event. Those signs are:

This word, σημειον, semeion, sign (or its plural, σημεια, semeia, signs) occurs seven times between this verse, Rev 12:1, and the end of the Revelation. These are the seven signs:
Rev 12:1 – The woman clothed with the sun
Rev 12:3 – The great red dragon
Rev 13:13 – The beast out of the earth causes fire to come down from Heaven
Rev 13:14 – The image of the beast
Rev 15:1 – The seven angels with the bowls of the wrath of God
Rev 16:14 – The frog demons work signs to gather the kings of earth to battle
Revelation 19:20 – The beast and false prophet cast into the lake of fire

In this verse, most translations render the word as a “great sign” (σημειον μεγα, semeion mega). That is a distinction we shall follow. Accordingly, John observed a great sign in heaven.

This passage, Rev 12:1, reflects the dream Joseph had in Genesis chapter 37:9-10. Here begins a vision of the basic history of the world. This woman represents God’s Chosen Race, the faithful Children of Israel both before birth of Christ and after the resurrection of Christ. This includes both Jews and Gentiles saved by the blood of Christ (Gal 3:7). She is also a type of Virgin Mary, and the Church. A type is a person, place, thing, or event that prefigures or foreshadows a future person, place, thing, or event. This woman obviously foreshadows the twelve tribes of Israel, from which Messiah came. Additionally, she is a type of Mary because she gave birth to Christ and she is a type of the church, which includes saved Jews and saved Gentiles. We find the origination of this image in the Old Testament:

Genesis 37:9-10 “And he [Joseph] dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. {10} And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

In this passage (Gen 37:9-10) we have the following observations:

The dream, which prophesied that Joseph would have authority over them, was fulfilled when he was the Grand Vizier and second most powerful man in Egypt; Pharaoh being the only one more powerful (Gen 41:39-40). Consequently, the entire prophecy in this Genesis passage concerned that time period.

That period is when Jacob’s eleven sons came to Egypt to purchase grain. They had to make obeisance or show great respect to Joseph in order to purchase grain from him. Joseph had total control over the entire land, including all commerce in Egypt (Gen 41:41). Thus anyone, especially foreigners, that wanted to purchase grain from him had to recognize his authority and honor him.

In Joseph’s dream, the sun is Jacob or Israel. We understand that the moon is likely Leah, for she was Jacob’s surviving wife, and stepmother of Joseph. Bilhah is a possibility, for she was Rachel’s servant and may have raised Joseph after Rachel’s death. Bilhah was also Jacob’s concubine (Gen 30:3). However Leah is the most acceptable candidate for the moon in Joseph’s dream being Jacob’s wife. We understand this because of Jacob’s response, “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” Jacob was likely referring to his wife Leah.

The eleven stars that bowed down to Joseph are Joseph’s eleven brothers, that came to Egypt to purchase grain. Benjamin was not involved in the sale of Joseph—he was too young at the time; and he was absent when the eleven met Joseph in Egypt. The eleven plus Benjamin, left in Canaan make twelve, fitting our passage here in Revelation perfectly.

There were thirteen actual sons, and twelve tribes that constituted the nation-state of Israel. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the tribe of Levi was set apart to God had had no inheritance in the land (Deu 10:8-9) and were not considered one of the tribes of Israel since they were set apart to God. They were the priests of God. At the time of Joseph’s dream, brother Levi was part of the eleven.

Jacob is the sun and he figuratively clothed his family with his provision and his protection. The moon represents Jacob’s wife because the moon is the lesser light and the sun is the greater in Genesis 1:16. This whole Genesis account looks forward to the time when Jacob’s family moves to Egypt.

The KJV states, “Jacob observed the saying.” Another way of saying this it that Jacob kept the saying in his heart. When we say we observe the law a or a holiday, etc., it is to also say we keep the law or the holiday. Jacob kept the saying, dwelt on it, and remembered it.

He knew from experience that God revealed His plans to men in dreams so He probably realized there was validity in what Joseph dreamed. This was God’s plan to preserve Jacob’s progeny which was ultimately the family line of Christ; the vision showed Jacob that plan, though he may not have realized it at the time.

Now the most significant history of the world is the story of Jesus Christ and His family beginning with Adam; the seed line passing through Seth, Noah, Shem, Eber (Heber), Terah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, David, Mary, and others, and ultimately His church, the family of God. Therefore the family of God can trace its history though Israel, which came from Abraham who came from Heber, who came from Noah and Seth and Adam.

This, the history of Christ, is indeed the most significant history of the world. All other history is secondary to this history. We divide history into two time periods, BC and AD. (The secular titles, BCE (before common era) and CE (common era) still use Christ’s birth as the dividing line). In Scripture, we see two accountings of the generations in the history of Christ. One in Mat 1:1-17, totaling 42 generations, and another totaling 76 generations in Luke 3:23-38. The history of Christ was also God’s plan to preserve all humanity from sin if they would believe in Him.

Revelation 12:2 “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”

This is both a type of Israel and a type of Mary. In the Old Testament Israel is at times referred to as “virgin daughter of Zion” (2 Kin 19:21; Lam 2:13). The Messiah, or Christ, was born in Israel as an Israelite, thus Israel is mainly in view here.

Additionally, we fully understand that Mary fulfilled the type for she actually birthed the Christ-child. That makes her simply a human woman and not a goddess or co-mediatrix. She was given the honor of being the human mother of Christ, the God-Man, but that honor in no way deifies her. Here, we need to focus on Israel, and not Mary, as a fulfilment of the type. Israel, then, is what is mainly in view in these first verses of Chapter 12.

When Jesus was born, the nation of Israel was in travail. The Northern kingdom was somewhere dispersed among the nations. The Kingdom of Judah had been in captivity and returned to the land in “troublous times” (Dan 9:25), Antiochus Epiphanes had sacrificed a pig on the altar, the Maccabean revolt had temporarily freed Judea, but shortly thereafter the Romans came and made the Israelites a vassal nation, and they pained to be delivered from the Roman yoke.

The Greco-Roman world was deep in the sins of the flesh and idolatry. The religious leaders were corrupt and no longer Godly. This was a world of travail. This was the world into which the Christ-child came. The nation cried out to be delivered from her distress. The problem is, when their Deliverer arrived, they rejected Him. Thus not only was Mary in actual travail with birth pains, but the nation of Israel was also in travail with the pains of being subject to an outside authority—Rome. Incidentally, that is the type of world we live in today.

Astronomical Signs

We would be remiss if we did not mention an astronomical scene in the heavens that echoes John’s vision of the woman. The Scripture tells us that Yahweh created the lights in the heavens to separate the day from the night and for signs, seasons, days, and years (Gen 1:14).

We also know what the Psalmist David wrote about signs in the heavens:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun. (Psalms 19:1-4 CSB)

There are striking similarities between the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) and the woman John describes in Revelation 12:1-2. At certain times of the year between September and October at regular intervals the constellation Virgo is in a position that fits the description of the woman in this chapter. This alignment depicted here occurred in September 2017 has occurred several times in history. The picture below depicts the constellation at that time.

Revelation Chapter Twelve Virgo

This image is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

In the image above, we see Virgo, the Virgin, with the sun at her head and the moon at her feet. Because the sun’s light overshadows the constellation, it is considered to be clothed with the sun. In other words the constellation is hidden by the sun’s brightness. This convergence occurred in the morning in the eastern sky just above the ecliptic. Below we can see the crown of twelve stars.

In the above image Jupiter, a “wandering star” is in retrograde motion (moving from right to left, retracing its previous path) and passes through the womb of Virgo and exits between her legs over a period of several months, which perhaps represents the birth of a child. A wandering star is one of five planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn that seem to move around in the heavens while the other stars remain fixed in their positions. The movement is due to the orbits of those planets in contrast with the earth’s orbit. The word, planet, comes from the Greek word meaning to wander or ramble. The image below depicts the crown of twelve stars.

Revelation Chapter Twelve Virgo 2

The Virgo Galaxy Cluster (Crown of Twelve Stars) This image is licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

At Virgo’s head we see some faint stars that make up her crown of twelve stars. This group of stars, which are actual galaxies, are known as the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and it contains a group of galaxies that form a circle 15 million light years in diameter. Twelve of them can be seen with the naked eye under the proper conditions. In the image, they are numbered to enhance the position of the twelve stars that make up the crown. The cluster contains about 2000 galaxies and the center of the cluster is 54 million light years away from our solar system.

Image of The Virgo Cluster taken by the Hubble Telescope:

Revelation Chapter Twelve Virgo Cluster

The Virgo Galaxy Cluster (Crown of Twelve Stars) This image is licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

This position of Virgo clothed with the sun and the moon at her feet occurs annually. The alignment depicted in the first image above, with the planet Jupiter in Virgo does not occur annually, but has occurred several times in history. This alignment depicted here occurred in September 2017. Some have stated that this alignment is what sent the Magi on their journey to visit Jesus. This image is placed here to show the similarities between John’s vision and actual events in the sky, and for no other purpose.

John’s vision of the woman symbolizes the deliverance of God’s people, the True Israel, consisting Jews and Gentiles saved by the blood of Christ, from the annihilation in the future. Joseph’s dream of the same image signified the deliverance of Gods people from annihilation in the past. The number of God’s people in the old covenant was seventy (Gen 46:27), consisting of Jacob’s family, while the number of God’s people in the new covenant is innumerable (as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea), as God promised Abraham (Gen 22:17).

Revelation 12:3 “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.”

John observed another sign in heaven. The dragon is Satan, “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev 12:9). The seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns represent the Kingdoms and leaders throughout history that belonged to Satan (e.g. Job 1:7, 2:2; Mat 4:8-9; 2 Cor 4:4; Rev 11:15). We will research the seven heads and ten horns of the dragon in the remaining chapters of Revelation. The heads and horns on the dragon also indicate the power and intelligence of Satan, which are immense.

Satan was never an angel in the strictest sense. An angel is a messenger, while Satan is an accuser. He was a covering cherub (Eze 28:14). A cherub is a living creature and one of the Heavenly Host. We like to generically include all the host of Heaven as angels, but this is not the case. When Satan fell, he symbolically became a dragon. A dragon is a serpent; a fascinating serpent, but a serpent, nonetheless. He was also shiny for the Hebrew word for serpent also means shining one. Note that because of their scales, snakes have a translucent or shining appearance. We use the word serpent to symbolically describe a slithering, oily, untrustworthy, conniving, lying, traitorous individual. That aptly describes Satan.

There is a living reptile that is known as a Komodo Dragon It is a monitor lizard from Indonesia that grows to about ten feet in length. It roams about looking to ambush and devour its prey, which consists of different kinds of animals including reptiles, birds, and mammals. It also scavenges for carrion. Komodo Dragons have been known to occasionally attack humans. Satan has similar hunting tactics and always attacks humans.

Obviously, John’s use of a dragon to describe Satan is symbolic. One definition of a dragon is a fierce, violent person, which describes Satan. Peter describes him as a roaring lion looking for prey to devour. Satan appears as an angel of light, but this is only a deception. He is a dragon; a deceiving (Gen 3:13; John 8:44; Rev 12:9), devouring (1 Pet 5:8; Rev 12:4), accusing (Zec 3:1; Rev 12:10), and persecuting (Rev 12:13) serpent (Gen 3:1).

For a good look at the serpent read about the leviathan in Job 41. God is telling about him. Leviathan means serpent or dragon:

Strong’s 3882, livyathan, liv-yaw-thawn’; from 3867; a wreathed animal, i.e. a serpent (espec. the crocodile or some other large sea-monster); fig. the constellation of the dragon; also as a symbol of Babylon:—leviathan, mourning.

Isaiah 27:1 “In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Let us take apart this verse piece by piece.

In that day” refers to “the last days” from Isaiah 2:2, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” That is the time when the nations will be judged and nation will no longer take up arms against nation. In other words that is the time when God’s people will be saved and God’s enemies will be punished.

The sore and great and strong sword” is the word of God. (see Heb 4:12) Jesus will punish Satan with the sword of His mouth (Rev 19:15), which is His word. Leviathan can be a serpent or a dragon; he is both. This verse calls him both. A piercing serpent can also mean a fleeing serpent. Satan caused Jesus to be pierced by a sword. A crooked serpent is a coiled or evil one (the root word of the word rendered crooked means wrong as in not righteous). The dragon in the sea is a veiled reference to Satan among the nations. This verse tells us that the leviathan in Job 41 is a type of Satan. The Psalmist (Asaph) tells us of a many headed leviathan and dragon:

Psalms 74:13-14 “Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. {14} Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.”

Again we can see some constellations in the heavens that have similarities to John’s description of the sign. Constellations representing serpents are Hydra (the female water serpent), Draco (the dragon), Serpens Cauda (the serpent’s tail) and Serpens Caput (the head of the serpent).

At Virgo, on the Virgin’s right side we see Hydra, which begins near her feet and curves around above her head. Hydra is crooked from tail to head. To her left side we find Draco (Draco is separated from her by Bootes, The Coma Berenices, and part of Ursa Major). At her feet we find Serpens Caput (head of the serpent), and Serpens Cauda (serpent’s tail). Serpens Caput consists of seven visible stars, representing the serpent’s seven heads. Virgo is surrounded by serpents.

Revelation 12:4 “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.”

We will first address the second part of this verse where the dragon stood before the woman. Then we will address the dragon’s tail and the stars of heaven.

The dragon (“that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan”—Rev12:9) was the serpent in the garden of Eden when he tried to destroy the line of Christ by deceiving Eve. He tried again when the sons of God married the daughters of men producing the Nephillim (Gen 6:1-4). He tried again by inciting Pharaoh to kill all the male Hebrew children (Ex 1:22). He tried again when he induced Saul to attempt to kill David (1 Sam. 19:1, 10, 15, 21, 15). Satan tried again with Solomon (1 Kin 1:15), and with Joash (2 Kin 11:2). This is a representative list. There are many more examples of this throughout the Scriptures. All of his attempts are accounted for in this verse (Rev 12:4).

This is an illusion of Pharaoh, under Satan’s power, commanding the midwives to kill the all the male children as they are born, thus attempting to prevent the birth of Messiah. Pharaoh is called a dragon by Ezekiel in the Septuagint. Here is Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint in Ezekiel where God calls Pharaoh a dragon, “Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I am against Pharao, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his rivers, that says, The rivers are mine, and I made them” (Eze29:3).

The dragon, that is Satan, wanted to stop the Christ-child from being born. This is signified by his standing before the woman (Israel). If he could not prevent the birth of Christ he wanted to devour (kill) the child immediately after birth. This he tried when he incited Herod to attempt to kill Jesus when the Magi came to visit him. Satan prompted Herod to kill all the male children in the area of Bethlehem under two years old. When Satan also failed in this attempt, he had Jesus crucified. But that miscarried on him too. That act played right into the plan of God.

Accordingly, Herod, when he decreed that all male children under two years old were to be killed was influenced by Satan the Dragon as was the Roman Empire, which attempted to destroy Christianity in its infancy by crucifying Christ and persecuting and murdering Christians. That illusion is about all who attempted to or will attempt to devour the Christ child and Christianity. The attempt to destroy Christianity is ongoing even in our time.

Additionally, the woman also represents true, or spiritual Israel, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16) which, according to the Apostle Paul, consists only of those Jews and Gentiles saved by faith in Christ. The unsaved, both Jew and Gentile, are not a part of true Israel. Unsaved Jews are Israel according to the flesh (Rom 9:3, I Cor 10:18 KJV). See also, Rom 2:28, 29; 9:3, 6, 7, 8; Gal 3:7, 28, 29; 6:16; Eph 2:19; 3:6; Php 3:3. Also refer to Paul’s teaching in Romans chapters 9-11.

Since the woman represents Israel, her seed also represents true Israel, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). Satan not only wanted to devour or destroy the Christ Child, he also wants to devour or destroy believers in Christ (1Pet 5:8), which make up the true Israel of God. Satan failed in his attempts to prevent the Messiah from being born and he failed when he had Jesus crucified. That increases his desire to destroy Christians, which he is attempting to do even to this very day, the day you are reading this commentary.

We can see the similarity between the dragon standing before the woman waiting to devour her child as soon as it was born in the relationship of the Constellation Serpens Caput to the Constellation Virgo. Serpens Caput, or the serpent’s head is located at the feet of Virgo, in a position to be able to take the child directly from the woman immediately after birth. It is as though the serpent is in the position of the midwife about to receive the baby from the birth canal. Again we are not placing any spiritual significance with the astronomical signs; they are just discussed here for clarification.

Now let us turn our attention to the dragon’s tail and the stars of heaven.

The term, star, has several meanings in Scripture. Here are some of them:

Jesus Christ: Num 24:17, Mat 2:2, Rev 22:16 (The Morning Star)
Literal Stars in the sky: Gen 1:16, Psa 8:3, Neh 4:21, Mat 24:29
Judges, Kings, Rulers, Leaders, Priests: Dan 8:10
Signs: Gen 1:16; Psa 136:9, Jer 31:35
Armies: Jdg 5:20,
Saints: Dan 12:3
Heavenly beings: angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Heavenly hosts, powers in the heavens, principalities, Demons, etc: Isa 14:13, Mar 13:25
Idols: Amos 5:26
Glory: 1 Cor 15:41
Angels: Jud 1:13, Rev 9:1
Messengers (angels) of churches: Rev 1:16, 20
Great and Mighty men: Isa 34:4, Rev 6:13

When the dragon swept one third of the stars from heaven what is the symbol here? We can see from the list above that there were many symbolic uses of the word star in both Testaments. Could these be angels? Certainly. In fact, many people believe this is related to verse nine where the dragon was cast out of heaven and the one third of the angels were cast out with him, which would indicate that the stars of verse three are the angels of verse nine.

However, in Daniel 8:10, we see stars differently.

Daniel 8:9-10 KJV  And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.  (10)  And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.

The little horn that waxed exceeding great is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. His title means, “God Manifest.” The stars are the holy people, that is, the faithful of Israel. The hosts of heaven are the priests that were faithful to God. We know that from Dan 8:11 where Antiochus placed himself above the “Prince of the host,” which was the High Priest.

There Antiochus, acting above the High Priest, stopped the Daily Sacrifices, causing the daily sacrifice and oblation, which were required by the Law of Moses, to cease (Dan 9:27). Antiochus threw some of the stars and the host to the ground and trampled on them, which indicates that Antiochus killed many priests and many faithful Israelites. He then appointed his own High Priest to do his bidding. Read about these things in the first book of Maccabees.

We can see that the third of the stars of heaven can also be God’s people that the wrath of Satan overcomes. Poole wrote:

“The tail of the red dragon signifies his followers, his civil and military officers, whosoever were by him employed to execute his commands. By the stars, here, are either meant the ministers of the Christian church, or the professors of it.

And did cast them to the earth; turning them out of their places and stations, making them as useless as he could1.”

It is of interest to note, that we read of much persecution against God’s faithful people in Revelation. Those people, who could be represented as stars, are persecuted by humans under the influence of Satan or his demons.

The stars swept away by the dragon could be his angels. However, they could easily represent martyred human leaders, Christians, saints, etc. It could also be the humans Satan uses to achieve his goals. In any case there is a spiritual battle raging as we speak in the heavenlies.

Daniel 8:8-12 is the best Old testament parallel to our verse here in Revelation, as we see above. Since the Scripture interprets the Scripture, was should heed the passage. This leads us to understand that when the Dragon, Satan, is angry he sets his eyes on God’s people and great tribulation against God’s people begins. We may even accept that the number, one third, indicates that a good portion of God’s people will die during the tribulation, but the majority will not.

It is certainly possible that this passage does indicate that based on Rev 12:9, that one third of the angels followed Satan and were cast down to earth with him. Yet before we make a doctrine out of this theory, let us consider all possibilities before making such a distinction.

 

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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Mark Oaks,  August 15, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew Poole, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, 1683, comment on Revelation 12:4.
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