Revelation 12 introduces us to the first of seven signs. The first sign is a woman clothed with the sun and the last sign introduces the seven bowls (Rev. 15:1). The seven signs will occur at the same time the two witnesses arrive on the earth, which is during the last part of the Tribulation (Rev. 11). The seven signs are a woman, the dragon or Satan, a male child, Michael the archangel, the Antichrist, and the false prophet (Rev. 12-13).
First Sign – The Woman
The first sign is a woman and she represents the nation of Israel.
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. (NASB) Rev. 12:1-2
The sun, moon, and crown of twelve stars are symbolic of the nation of Israel. God uses the same symbols when He speaks to the patriarch Joseph in a dream. In his dream the sun, moon, and eleven stars bow down to him.
Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more . . . Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” And he related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (NASB) Gen. 37:5, 9-10
His father understood that the symbols referred to his family. Joseph was the twelfth star. This means the twelve stars represent all twelve sons who were the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Earlier God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen. 32:28). This means that the woman represents the nation of Israel and she is about ready to give birth to a child. The nation of Israel is pictured as giving birth to a significant individual.
Second Sign – The Dragon
The second sign is a great red dragon which is Satan.
And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. (NASB) Rev. 12:3
Have you ever wondered why we think of Satan as red? Why some think of him as having a tail? This concept of him may have come from this passage. But where did the horns come from? That is still a mystery. How do we know this dragon is Satan? The answer is actually given in Rev. 12:9.
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (NASB) Rev. 12:9
Here we are told that the dragon symbolizes Satan, the serpent of old.
The next part of the verse is loaded with symbolism. The first two symbols are the dragon’s seven heads and ten horns. The meaning of the seven heads is given later in Revelation 13 and 17, where we will be told that the dragon’s seven heads represent seven kingdoms or empires. The last of the seven empires will be Antichrist’s kingdom and his power will come from Satan and his evil forces. We will learn more when we reach Revelation 13. For now we can say that the ten horns symbolize ten kings who will initially start to rule over this final empire. The Antichrist will murder three of them and leave seven kings to reign with him during the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation (Dan. 7:23-25).
Satan is the power behind the seven empires, all of the kings, and the Antichrist. The Holy Spirit wants us to know that Satan will empower these earthly authorities. Yet, it is God who allows kings to reign (Dan. 4:25-26). God also wants us to know the origin of the Antichrist’s real power.
When we arrive at verse 4, we discover that the Greek verb “swept” is a historical present. It takes us back in time before the world was created. Gaps in time are not uncommon in scripture (see study of Dan. 11 ). This is a jump back in time to when Satan and one-third of the angels in heaven rebelled against God.
And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. (NASB) Rev. 12:4
Here we learn that they attempted to defeat God and His holy angels; but they were stopped, and God gave them the planet earth as their new home. Now they can only visit heaven.
Since then Satan has been at war with God and has attempted to kill Jesus, the son of Mary. The woman represents the nation of Israel which is pictured as giving birth to Jesus. Was it Satan who attempted to kill Jesus after the three magi had visited Jesus? In Matthew 2:13-15 we are told that it was King Herod, but here we discover that Herod did not act alone. Satan motivated King Herod.
In 2 Corinthians 2:11 the Apostle Paul says . . .
. . . that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes NASB) 2 Cor. 2:11
What are Satan’s schemes? Do you know? One of his schemes includes motivating others to murder. He will do whatever he can to accomplish his goals. He is at war with God and believers.
Third Sign – Male Child
The next sign is a male child – Jesus.
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. (NASB) Rev. 12:5
Scripture is very clear that in the future Jesus will rule all nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:7-9; Rev. 19:15). In the past, He was taken up to heaven after His death on the cross for our sins and returned to life with God.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . (NASB) 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Our visit into past history is over when we come to the next verse – to the last half of the tribulation.
And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (NASB) Rev. 12:6
Jesus said the same thing to His disciples – run.
Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains . . . (NASB) Matt. 24:15-16
Run when you see the Antichrist. Run! Satan is after you! But Israel will not be alone, for God will care for them during the final 1,260 days of this age which is the last half of the tribulation. God’s faithful love for His people will not stop.
Fourth Sign – Archangel Michael
We have already been told in Rev. 9:1-2 that Satan will one day be denied access to heaven. Michael and his angels will fight with Satan and his evil angels, and Michael will win.
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (NASB) Rev. 12:7-11
Notice the phrase “no longer a place found for them in heaven.” Satan will finally be denied access to heaven, and heaven will rejoice and give praise to God and Jesus.
Satan In A Rage
When this happens Satan will know that he has very little time left. Like a little frustrated boy or girl who has been wounded, he will seek revenge.
For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. (NASB) Rev. 12:12-13
He will attempt to persecute the Israelites in some way, but God will not let him do what he wants.
But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. (NASB) Rev. 12:14
God does not say how He will rescue Israel from Satan. We do not know if the “wings of the great eagle” refers to airplanes, but it is clear that God will protect His people. He has always been faithful and will continue to be faithful. Wings were symbolic of God’s protection and care.
God will protect them for “times, time, and half-time.” Earlier we were told that they would be nourished for 1,260 days or 3.5 years. This means that “times, time, and half a time” refers to a 3.5 year period of time. This will be an important fact for Revelation 13.
When Satan sees that his little attempt at persecution has been defeated, he will try again. This time he will bring an army against Israel.
And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. (NASB) Rev. 12:15-16
The flood of water symbolizes an invading army (Isa. 8:5-8; Jer. 47:1-2; Dan. 11:26). It will apparently be a large army, but it will not succeed. God will destroy a large portion of it when He opens the ground.
How does Satan respond? Like a frustrated, angry boy, Satan will now become enraged. His anger will be worse and He will direct the army to kill anyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ. He hates Christians. He will try to kill all of them.
“So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (NASB) Rev. 12:17
Satan must be a miserable evil angel now knowing that his end is coming. But when his end finally comes, his extreme hatred and rage will be horrible. He tried to take God’s throne and was denied the right to live in heaven. He was defeated in his attempt to kill Jesus as a little child. One future day Satan will finally be denied any access to heaven. He will be frustrated in his attempt to persecute Israel, and God will kill a major portion of his army. Satan will not just be disappointed. He will be extremely angry. The tribulation will horribly worsen.
God has told us that Satan is not our friend.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (NASB) 1 Pet. 5:8
He crouches like a lion. He is looking for your weakness. His schemes are many. He wants to sift us like wheat (Luke 22:31). He tries to prevent us from understanding scripture (Matt. 13:19). He seeks an opportunity against us when we are discouraged (2 Cor. 2:8-11), and he works to cause us to believe something – anything but the truth (2 Cor. 11:14). He is the enemy of every true believer in Jesus Christ. But there is victory. We can cause him to lose another battle.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (NASB) 1 Pet 5:9
Resist him . . . and put on the armor of God. Minor wins over Satan occur today, but the ultimate, final victory belongs to Jesus. Why does God want us to know this? He loves us. He wants us to know that Satan will not win!