So let us first consider the Drama of the Ages as John steps back to explain the much great context of what is occurring. To this point in history this is yet a story without an ending. Right now it represents a great tragedy but as we study the story we find that it is full of hope and promises the greatest of all happy endings. To understand the drama we must first understand the key characters. We are introduced to three key characters; the woman, the dragon, and the child.
First, consider the character of the woman. Our text says this, “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….” Now, what is seen is in heaven and it is called a wonder or a sign; a signification of an actual reality. The wonder is seen in heaven but the reality for the women is actually on earth in the sixth verse of this chapter. The people in heaven are being privy to some retelling or flashback (as some commentators have called it) of things that have been. So, who is this woman? Elliott compared the description of the woman here to that of the Shumanite woman in the Canticles (Song of Solomon) where it says, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (Song 6:10)? Some have connected the allusion to the church but what follows can in no way be said of the church. Catholic commentators without warrant have declared that the woman of this text is none other than the “Virgin Mary.” They couple her with the ark in the end of the last chapter and say that she is the one that bore Christ. However, there is no other scripture which gives such a description to Mary and what follows in the text could in no way be applied to Mary. They claim that Mary is the subject because they desire to make her the subject of adoration. They do this because they want to fulfill in the name of Mary (for what better than a Christian name to fool people) a desire to practice old pagan forms of worship. We would not deny that Mary is contained in the text as the actual maid that bore the man child but the important part of the text is the fact that she was a Jewish maid for salvation was not of Mary but salvation is of the Jews (John 4:?). So Mary is not the woman but Mary surely is contained in the woman. Further, much to the dismay of our Catholic friends, the woman itself is only the subject of wonder. Even if it was conceded that the woman was Mary, which it is not, there is nothing in the text that would make her the subject of worship; a prayer answering Mediatrix. In fact the same wonder which heaven is made to give to the woman it is within a couple of verses made to give to Satan. So unless our Catholic friends are willing to reduce their idolatrous conception of Mary to the same level as Satan they should stop using this text to tell us that we ought to be giving worshipful adoration to Mary.
So who is the woman? The woman is Israel. Israel is subject to the great tribulation and it is the remnant of Israel that we are leading to in our discussion. Often Israel in the Old Testament is pictured as a woman who is bound by promise to the Lord (Jer. 3:14, Hosea). Further it was through Israel that the promised seed would come. The seed of Abraham, the seed of Isaac, the seed of Jacob, and the seed of David that would bless the whole world (Gen. 3:15, 12:1-3, PS. 89, Matt. 1:1). That seed is Christ (Gal. 3:16). The sun, moon, and stars show the provision of God for our life (Jer. 31:35). They were given as signs and for times (Gen. However, there is one text in specific that mirror our text and that is found in the dream of Joseph. When he shared his initial dream with his family he described his family (the children of Israel) in these terms: “I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me” (Gen. 37:9). According to that text the sun and the moon and the 12 stars (Joseph as the head of the twelfth star) are pictures of Israel.
Our text describes three aspects of the appearance of Israel; her clothing, her standing, and her crowning. She is clothed with the sun. The Lord God is our sun and shield (Ps. 84:11). This woman is clothed with God and His light and His promises. This is the chief reason why the world hates the Christian and the Jew. They are products of God’s promise and make up the illuminating and convicting light of the knowledge of God. The final solution in the eyes of wicked mankind (who hate the light and will not come to the light) is to persecute and destroy those who show them the light of God. The fact that the woman is now clothed with the sun may be a great picture of the result of her repentance and subsequent salvation as intimated in the 11th chapter. The woman has a standing in that the moon is under her feet. The moon was recognized as the mechanism for time in the Bible. The Jews of Old marked the new moons as they did their Sabbath days as a time for sacrifice. It is the chief means of light by the darkness of night. One could then picture the standing of Israel in the light of the prophets that proceeded Christ. The woman now has a firm foothold light of Scripture. The woman is crowned with a crown of twelve stars. The crown is her reward. The twelve stars are the promises of God to the twelve tribes of Israel. The blessings and faithfulness of God are her crown and glory. So heaven is made to be a witness to the wonder of this woman, Israel standing in a special relationship to the Word of God and to God Himself, crowned with all the blessings and promises that God has given to her.
Our text goes on to say, in description of the woman to say, “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” We, not only because we know what the following verses say but also because we are Bible believing Christians, understand that the child is the Messiah who was to come into the world as the Savior and Redeemer of the world; Jesus Christ. At this point we can safely agree with the Catholics that the person of Mary is involved but she is involved because she was the Jewish maid that actually carried the child in her womb and travailed in birth. The fact that it was Mary was related all the way back to the promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob that of their seed would all the nations of the world be blessed. The broader picture here then is that Israel was bearing a child, a seed. There is a lot of imagery in the next couple of verse that resembles the third chapter of Genesis regarding the woman and the fall; especially when the dragon enters the picture. First, we have the prophecy regarding the seed of the woman itself: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). It was the seed of the woman that was to be the Messiah; this included not only the virgin birth through Mary but all the promises of the seed through Israel. The other part of the imagery of our text is the sorrow that accompanies the bringing forth of the child where it prophecies in Genesis, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” (Gen. 3:16). There is sorrow and pain connected with bringing any child into the world. Christ Himself stated, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21). The woman in our text cried, travailed, and was in pain. Any woman who has given birth can attest that these things accompany the bringing of children into the world. This is the role that Israel is playing. It is Israel that is bringing the child into the world. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). The us in that text is the woman in our text, Israel. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel” (Micah 5:2, 3). Again, the text says that the child was born out of a specific place and tribe in Israel. The prophecy in Micah also specifically mentions the travail of the birth.
For this woman, Israel, there was pain in suffering in connection with the birth of the child. Jamieson et al believed this birth to refer not to the first coming of Christ but to His second coming. They stated that this is when Israel at last welcomes Christ as their own. Again, the prophecy of Zechariah stated of the repentance of Israel that “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” We would have to disagree with the idea that the travail was meant to picture the second coming because that coming was to be with travail and without pain (Isa. 66:7). Comparing Zechariah with our text we can say that the travail, the crying, and the pain mentioned is related to the repentance of Israel and their realization that they had rejected and pierced their Savior. There has been great pain and suffering for Israel all the while she had rejected Christ. For the last 2,000 years she has travailed in pain and persecution because Christ was not formed in her. But there will come a moment in time where the travail and pain of Israel will reach its apex and they will finally mourn for their firstborn. Before the promised seed will bruise the head of the serpent the sin of the woman must produce the sorrow of birth. Salvation follows repentance. Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.
Then there was another wonder revealed in this great drama, the sinister villain or the story. “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.” This is the second wonder seen; the drama obviously surrounding the women and her seed and the serpent or dragon as seen all the way back in Genesis (Gen. 3:15). The serpent was the original villain. He was the fiend that conquered mankind through Eve by casting doubt upon God. Here the same villain is seen as a “great red dragon.” We know that the serpent and the dragon are one and the same because our text declares it (Rev. 12:9). There are two aspects of this villain that are described in our text: the personal description and the personal possessions; the personal description is the title “great red dragon” and the personal possessions is what our text says he “has,” that being seven heads and ten horns and the corresponding crowns.
First, consider the personal description of great red dragon. The adjective “great” is self-explanatory. We know that our enemy is of great power unmatched by most of the creative realm. He is also is described by the color red. The term red was used to describe the color of Esau (a man after the flesh – Gen. 25:25), the color of the wine of wrath in the hand of God (Ps. 75:8), the color of the Sea that fled from Israel, the color of the eyes of the drunkard and the wine that enflames them (Prov. 23:29), the color of the heifer slain for the sin of Israel (the sacrifice representing the sin of man, Num. 19:2), the color of the blood of the slain, the color of war and death in the and the color of sin itself (Isa. 1:18). So it is not hard to ascertain that red in the Bible represents the sinfulness and the subsequent wrath and consequences that must fall on sin. So Satan stands as great in power and red in appearance, the personification of man’s sinfulness and the consequences thereof. The term red also could mean fiery indicating that he is coming in fiery wrath and acting in such malicious wrath. Then he is described as a dragon. In Genesis he is titled “the serpent” because of his great subtleness. Here is titled the dragon because of his great fierceness. Both are simple titles indicative of his true character. The term serpent and the term dragon are often descriptions of the same kinds of creature (Deut. 32:33). The place of the dragon is in the scripture a desolate place (Isa. 13:22). A dragon is a serpent like creature on a grander scale. We were introduced to the beast in the 11th chapter and now we are introduced to the dragon who we will later be said to empower the beast (Rev. 13:2). The Leviathan is dragon like creature as described in Job 41 which is specifically prophesied as a description of Satan. Isaiah stated, “In that day [the day in which the Lord will fully deliver Israel] 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” (Isa. 27:1). Again, the psalmist also prophesied the defeat of leviathan in what mirrors our text in places (i.e. the flood and the drying up thereof as described later in this chapter), “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers” (Ps. 74:12-15, see also Ps 91:13). A dragon often in the scripture is a picture of the ultimate worldly authority such as Egypt (Ezek. 29:3) or Babylon (Isa. 51:9, Jer. 51:34). So the description is perfect for Satan who is the prince of this world (John 14:30).
Then we come to the description of that which the dragon possesses. The dragon is said to have “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” This is not necessarily a description of any actual creature that has existed but it is a description of the power which this dragon in type possesses or has possessed throughout the centuries. The first point of interest is the numbers themselves. The woman is but one but the force that stands against her is many. They are Legion for they are many (Mark 5:9). It is not surprising in ones study of history or ones study of current events to see many nations, kings, and crowns standing against the people and the nation of Israel. Satan is indeed the spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). There is a demonic, yea, rather, a satanic, influence that Satan has over many nations in his persecution of the nation of Israel. There are three words that are used in our text to describe that which the dragon possesses; heads, horns, and crowns. The term heads speaks of the seat of authority (Josh. 24:1, I Kings 8:1). It is not particular to a nation at large but to even to small segments such as tribes and families (i.e. the husband is the head of the wife or the family). The term head speaks of that which is the executive of any particular body. As we go further in our study we will learn that the beast (antichrist) is one of these seven heads (Rev. 13:3) and after a seemingly miraculous resurrection rises above the other seven heads to possess them and the ten horns with all of their crowns. The seven crowns belong specifically to the seven heads. The term crowns speaks of a glory and power that is granted to a person. Again, the antichrist was given one of these crowns in his rise to worldly power (Rev. 6:2). Seeing that the heads are separate from the horns it is possible that these heads represent some para national organization such as the EU or the UN or NATO maybe even the Vatican. But all of this is just speculation. The term horns refers to specific kings or kingdoms. They answer first of to the ten toes of Daniels vision which were a latter day vision of the end time Roman Empire weakened by democratic principles (Dan. 2:40-43). The seventh chapter of Daniel specifically outlines the latter day Roman Empire which had ten horns or kingdoms that it encompassed (Dan. 7:7). The Antichrist is not only one of the heads but also one of the horns (Dan. 7:8, 20, 21). So we can understand this, the devil will in the latter days be entwined with the revived Roman Empire and with other world heads or organizations. Whatever may be said of these heads and horns they are his; they are the outworking of his power and his will.
But there is more to his power than the earthly possessions. Our text goes on to say, “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth….” There is a mysterious statement alluding to Antiochus Epiphanes under the Greek Empire (showing how Satan is the thread of power that has worked all through the times of the Gentiles), “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” (Dan. 8:10). There are differences in these two texts. The text in Daniel speaks more of the conquest over the stars but our text appears to speak of the drawing or influence over the stars. It was Satan that influenced these stars to follow him, thus the reference to the tail drawing the stars. It is obvious that the stars are not meant to signify actual stars for the idea that one third of the actual stars being cast to the earth would be ridiculous. We know that stars in their courses fought against Sisera (Judges 5:20). God himself said to Job, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy…” (Job 38:7). That is why tradition has looked at this text and stated that it was a description of Satan drawing one third of the angels of heaven to follow him in his rebellion against God. Here is an instance in which I am fully ready to agree with tradition. The text says that there were stars were of heaven and they were cast down. Peter said, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment…” (II Pet. 2:4). When Satan fell there were other angels cast down as well to hell. Satan cast them down with himself in his rebellion. So Satan has all the powers of hell at his disposal as well.
So returning to the drama our text focuses on child, “and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” Satan’s focus has been on stopping the child. The promise of redemption from the beginning was that the seed of the woman was going to bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). God had always revealed his hand. It was no secret that Seth was to bring forth the seed and then Enoch and then Noah and then Eber and then Abraham and so on to Judah and David. Time and time again Satan stood before the woman to devour the seed as soon as it was born. He was the spirit of Pharaoh slaying all the Israelite boys, the spirit of Athalai slaying all the seed royal, and the spirit of Herod slaying all the babies of Bethlehem. Satan hated the coming of Christ and all throughout the Old Testament he busied himself with fighting against the coming of Christ.
But the drama found its crescendo in coming of Christ. Despite all satanic opposition Christ 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.” She brought forth the man child of prophecy through a little Jewish virgin maid named Mary of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David. This is the one of whom will one day rule the nations with a rod of iron (Ps. 2). And this child triumphed being caught up to God and to the throne of God (Heb. 1:1-3). “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (I Tim. 3:16). So the child has entered the world and has finished his work that he came to do.
And that brings us to the present. The end has come. The woman has brought forth the child. The child has ascended to glory. The woman has now realized who that child was and mourned for him in repentance. In doing so they have rejected antichrist and is now in danger. Our text says, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” This is the last 1,260 before Christ steps foot on this earth; the last three and one half years of the seventieth week of Daniel has now begun. Christ said that when this moment comes the people of Jerusalem must flee (Matt. 24). Here the woman has indeed fled and they have found a place that God prepared and God would feed them there. Just as God fed Elijah for three and one half years in the days of his prophecy so God will do for this woman. Some have speculated on the place where God prepared. Some say it is the caverns of Petra based on Dan. 7:25, others Edom according to Ps. 60:9, and others Moab according to Isa. 16:4. Our text simply says it is the wilderness and there is a lot of wilderness on this globe ad there is no reason to say that it is just one place. God cares for His own no matter where they flee. God had Elijah go to several places that he prepared during that time. Thus we have the unfinished drama and from this point God is going to tell the rest of the story.