A New Face for the Woman of Revelation 12
Revelation 12:9-11
r1209

12:9a
What woman?

   "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Rev. 12:9)
   This is a very significant verse in understanding the drama of the whole chapter. First, remember that, here at verse 9, we begin the fuller account which follows the synopsis in the first six verses 1206. The dragon in verse 3 which drew a third of the stars of heaven is here explained as Satan cast out with the angels who took his side in the argument. They were deceived and so were drawn by Satan. Of course, they accepted the deception and were, themselves, guilty.
   In my past study of Revelation, I felt that the passage in verses 7 to 9 described a second fall after the one in verse 4. Verses 10 and 11 give us reason to consider that. So if that's your opinion, hold on. I'll explain later. I do believe that Satan has fallen in steps. We will look at that concept, too, as we proceed.

Main characters in the drama
   Now the significant insight: The dragon here is called a serpent. When we read, "old serpent," our mind naturally thinks of "old" as meaning "bad" or "reprehensible." The word in Greek, however, is archaios which means old in time. The NKJV correctly reads "serpent of old." In other words, we have seen this serpent back in history in the Garden of Eden Gen. 3:1.

Eve accepted his lie and Adam followed. When God questioned them, Adam blamed Eve (and hence God who made her) and Eve blamed the serpent. God cursed the serpent and gave the promise of the Redeemer. See verses 14 and 15. ge0314.
   Thus we have the primary source for the symbols of the woman and the dragon in our chapter. We can see the root of the conflict a bit better, and we can see who the players in the drama are Satan, God's people, and the Messiah. We saw Mary as the woman when her baby was threatened and then ascended to heaven. Now we see Eve as the woman in conflict with the dragon. Hold that in your cerebral computer while we read another verse.

Image © Corel, colors changed
The church and the Messiah
   "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:25-27; cf. Jer. 6:2)

   Later in our study in Revelation we will see the bride of Christ again Rev. 19:7. So what we have here in Revelation 12 is the woman as God's faithful people His church. The historical symbols are Eve, the first woman who wanted to give birth to the Messiah, and Mary, to whom the promise was finally fulfilled (cf. Dan. 11:37). The woman clothed in the sun is the "woman," in the larger sense, whose seed (Christ) would bruise the serpent's head (here, the dragon's head). He would rule all nations with the rod of iron (Rev. 12:5; 19:15) and finally destroy Satan (20:7-9).
   Eve didn't know that centuries would pass before the Messiah would come. Do you remember what she said when her first child, Cain, was born? "I have gotten a man from the Lord." (Gen. 4:1) Thus the source of the allusion in the term "man child" (Rev. 12:5). The Greek words translate literally as, "a man, a son" which emphasizes the human nature of our Lord as in the term, Son of Man. Cain didn't turn out to be the Messiah or even His progenitor, nor did Abel. Satan was at work. Finally Seth began the line of descent.

   We may praise our God that He cared enough for us rebels to send His only begotten Son to die in our place!

12:9b
Doubt and talking animals

   We live in a theological climate today where the accounts of creation, the fall, and the flood are considered myth. I met someone who based his rejection of the first part of Genesis on what he thought was the absence of reference to the talking snake elsewhere in the Bible. I was able to point him to the passage we have been studying.
   To someone who wants scientific answers for everything, the snake story does seem impossible. But as you and I have looked deeper into the Word, we have discovered that the dragon is the serpent of old who deceived the first woman, and that the woman appearing in our chapter represents God's faithful people who are being rescued from the serpent's bite. So we begin to understand the reality of the situation in Eden (Gen. 3). The Lord Jesus, who led John to reveal this connection with the serpent in the garden, believes the story of Creation and the fall. He should. He is the Creator. We can praise God for the certainty of His word. What He told us about those early times is true, and we can trust Him when He promises us a place (John 14:1-3) in the heaven Satan was expelled from! Revelation is a testimony to the solid foundation of all of the Scriptures.
   Perhaps Satan exercised spirit possession when he spoke through the serpent. Thus he was seen as the serpent. Demons certainly speak through possessed people. Do you remember another Bible story where an animal talked? It's the story of Balaam whose donkey talked to him when he beat her. Here is a little portion of it:

   "And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord [for the third time], she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.  Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face." (Num. 22:27-31)

Returning spirit?
   My family and I were in Haiti when Papa Doc (François Duvalier, President à Vie de la Républic Haïtien) died (1972). To bring cattle to market, they are driven into the city. On the anniversary of Duvalier's death a particular black bull was among the cattle coming into Port-au-Prince. On the way, something strange happened. The bull talked. He said "I died once and I don't want to die again." He was spared the butcher's knife and taken to the police headquarters. I don't know what finally happened to him, but I expect he lived happily ever after.
   This kind of story helps sharpen our sense of reality. God has permitted Satan to talk through people and even animals he takes control of (I believe, by evil angels). Because his angels have watched and listened to people in life, they can mimic their speech in a spiritualism seance and reveal things that others would not know.
   The story of the talking serpent is not myth. And Satan uses the supernatural to impress people with his deception. For the Haitians, he apparently wanted to reinforce the idea of reincarnation. That would not be so likely to work on you and me as Christians. He has other tricks for us. His goal is anything to divert us from understanding truth and to reinforce our belief in error. You can be sure he wants to deceive people today about the state of man in death. If he could talk through the serpent, he can also impress the semi-conscious thoughts of people who are near-death. Hallucination comes quite naturally to the brain when the life forces are weakened. Also, Satan can easily make it appear that dead relatives return to talk (hoping they won't believe Job. Job 7:10; 14:21). His first lie was to Eve, when he said "Ye shall not surely die." He doesn't want us to believe that "the wages of sin is death."
   I read in my Bible that death is like a sleep (Ps. 13:3; John 11:11-14; Eccl. 9:5, 6), not a consciousness somewhere else (Ps. 115:17) as Plato taught. It is a sleep until the resurrection (John 5:28, 29). I'll leave you with your Bible to prayerfully check out this topic. For more about death click.
   The national Voodoo occultic religion of Haiti, by the way, works in cooperation with Catholicism.

Does what we believe about death matter?
   Yes, because a misunderstanding supports Satan's first lie that people don't die, and because, if we understand that people are unconscious in death, we will not be deceived by his angels pretending to be departed loved ones or the virgin Mary.
   "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." (Matt. 24:22) "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." (1 Cor. 11:14).
   Both God and Satan (Rev. 13:13) can work miracles. When we see something supernatural, we have only one way to know who is behind it by asking if it agrees with Scripture.

   "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:19, 20).

   What a marvelous gift we have in the Scriptures!

 

12:9c
Background check on Satan

    "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Rev. 12:9) The illustration is a reminder to pray as we open the Word or discuss Bible topics.

   Before we move on, let's look at a few verses to help us understand the origin of evil. Often people ask how a good God could create a bad devil. Of course that's not quite what happened. Two key Bible chapters discuss the topic, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. The passage in Ezekiel is a lament against the king of Tyre, but it clearly depicts Satan, who was perhaps the moving force for the king. Before his fall, Satan's name was Lucifer, meaning light bearer, or shining one. Here is an excerpt. You can read the rest in your Bible.

Image © Corel
   "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." (Ezek. 28:13-15)

   Lucifer, as the covering cherub, was as close to God as one could be, yet he fell. Why? There is no answer. In the final analysis, sin is not rational. If it could be explained, then it would cease to be sin and God would have no reason to forbid it.

Is sin necessary so we can enjoy the good?
   Not according to God's original plan for our happiness. The tree in Eden was named for an experience God knew we should not have knowing good and evil which implies mixing them. The commitment to Satan's way has brought misery to everyone on this planet and even to nature (Rom. 8:22).
   Why did God place, in the midst of the garden, the forbidden tree (Gen. 2:16) as well as the tree of life (Gen. 2:9)? So our first parents could choose to love and trust Him. Without any options, love would not be voluntary and we would not truly be free. I believe that, in eternity, we will obey God following the choice we make now to be entirely committed to Him. These ideas help me make sense of the whole conflict between Christ and Satan.

   "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." (Isa. 14:12-15)

Realizing the evil, let's turn our eyes to God's solution
   "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21)

12:10a
Fallen again?

   To resolve an apparent contradiction in the description of Satan's fall, we look behind the scenes of our Saviour's death and resurrection.

   "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child." (Rev. 12:10-13)

Could this fall have been at the time of the cross?
   Because this passage mentions the power of Christ, authenticated by the cross, and the blood of the Lamb and the woman who brought forth the man child (past tense), we may ask if the fall from heaven might have happened at the time of the cross. This would not harmonize with our earlier conclusion where we saw Satan on earth waiting to devour the child (Rev.12:3a). Also his deceptive behavior would have been reason for expulsion. And we have the testimony of Jesus Himself placing Satan's fall in the time before the cross:
   "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. . . ." (Luke 10:17-19)

   We can get insights from early Old Testament times. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?  Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? . . ." (Job 1:6-10)

   Note that the devil was called Satan (meaning "adversary" or "one who withstands") and not Lucifer here. He joined "the sons of God." When the Lord asked where he came from, he said he walked in the earth. So he claimed to represent the earth. After all, hadn't Eve and Adam given him their loyalty? Notice that he is accusing Job of being faithful only because God blessed him. He is acting as "the accuser of the brethren" before the holy angels.

Two stages
   From this we see that, although fallen, Satan, in the time of Job, still had access to the courts of heaven, whereas in Rev. 12:10, with the new power of Christ, the accuser is cast down and heaven rejoices as a result. In verse 7, we saw the beginning of the war in heaven and the fall like lightning which Jesus told about.
   Perhaps the two parts of the fall are seen in verses 8 and 9. In 8 the dragon and his angels (a) "prevailed not" or "didn't win" and (b) "neither was their place found in heaven." Not prevailing would have been the fall at or before creation which we saw earlier in the chapter. He had not won the war for the hearts of all the angels but neither had he entirely lost. Heaven was no longer their home but Satan was permitted to come to the council as described in Job. In verse 9, Satan was (a) "cast out" of heaven and (b) "cast down into the earth."
   As I see it, although Satan's battle in heaven was lost before the Garden of Eden experience, Satan was still allowed to intrude as he did in accusing Job. When he acted so directly in trying to destroy the Son of God, I believe the holy angels had heard enough. God had a right to destroy Satan when he first sinned. He waits so that His justice can be understood in every mind. That's why the devil is still allowed to act today.
    His being "cast down" in the second phase of his fall, would mean no more access to heaven. Jesus spoke of this fall, too. "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31). At the cross the angels of heaven had full evidence of the character of their enemy. No more place was found for him [in their hearts] (v.8).

   Marvelous, long-suffering Father in heaven, and blessed Saviour and Lord!

12:10b
Down, down, down

    "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night." (Rev. 12:10)

    First, notice that this verse marks the beginning of a new revelation. John had seen two signs in heaven (12:1, 3). Now he hears a voice in heaven a switch from vision to audition. You may recall in chapter 1 he heard the trumpet voice in verse 10. Then he turned and saw the candlesticks in verse 14. In 7:4 he heard the number of the sealed ones, and, in 7:9, he saw the great multitude. Also compare Dan. 8:3 and 8:13. What is the significance of these switches? I'm not sure, except that the different mode seems to amplify or extend the information (0916hrd).

    Last time, I explained that I felt Satan's fall from heaven had two stages, or we might say that there were two falls. Later we will see him cast into the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:3) and finally into the lake of fire (20:10), so his descent goes in steps. Satan has challenged God's throne (Isa. 14:13), especially Christ's place there (Rev. 12:7, Matt. 4:9). I believe Jesus called him the "prince of this world" (John 14:30) because he, Satan, considered himself heir to the throne. Daniel talks about the Messiah as a prince (Dan. 9:25). At each step Christ's throne is more secure and Satan's claim is cast down a bit lower.

12:10c
Who is calling us brothers (and sisters)?

    "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night." (Rev. 12:10)

   For several verses we hear the loud words from heaven. We are their siblings. I had assumed that the angels were speaking, but I hadn't considered the four living ones (translated "four beasts" in KVJ) and the 24 elders. In chapter 4 we saw the two groups as human representatives in heaven of those who die in Christ and those who are living when He comes 0406a. As faithful servants of Christ, we are indeed their brothers and sisters.

   One day God's great universe will be clean. I plan to be a part of it.

12:11a
Overcoming by their testimony

   And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev. 12:11)

   The "they" includes you and me. We are the "brethren" who are faithful to the Lamb. We overcome Satan in two ways. It is easy for us to understand overcoming by the blood of the Lamb. That blood represents our Saviour's right to forgive us and to give us the strength to overcome one whom we could never conquer in our own power. But what about overcoming by the word of our testimony? This seems like righteousness by works. I even wondered if the translation was accurate but found no justification for an alternative. Finally the following passage came to mind:
   "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 10:32, 33)

   Confessing Christ before others is our testimony. We are not saved by it but apparently, as we reveal our faithfulness to the Jesus, and He presents us to the Father, we are granted strength to overcome. To withhold this witness before the world, is to deny Jesus and He denies us before the Father.  This brings up another passage.
   "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15, 16).

Aspects of testimony
   So are we saved by the act of baptism? No, but baptism is a public confession that we have given our lives to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Believing while rejecting baptism is a denial, perhaps a little like Peter who pledged to be faithful but didn't want to be associated with Jesus at the trial (Matt. 26:33-75). Witnessing through baptism and in sharing the good news of salvation with others is an essential part of the Christian life.
   The significance in the present context can be seen when we come to verse 14. The woman, God's faithful people 1201, flees to the wilderness under persecution by the dragon. During those times, there was a great pressure to conform to the popular religious mode. To give the word of testimony was not popular then and often meant death, but we are getting ahead of the story.
   And confessing Christ includes Christian fellowship where we can praise God together. He has made us social creatures and given us the joy of gaining strength from both listening to the testimonies of others and expressing our own. In Mal. 3:16, those who feared the Lord spoke to each other and the Lord heard it and "a book of remembrance was written." This communion is important even in the record in heaven.
   I almost overlooked the what is probably the highest form of testimony. Overcoming Satan means more than personal salvation. It is also doing our part in clarifying that God's way is best. It is witnessing, by our faithfulness, that Jesus Christ has power to save us from sin in our lives.
   "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men. . . . written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. . . . . our sufficiency is of God;" (2 Cor. 3:2-5)
   So we have both justification (the blood of the Lamb) and sanctification (the word of testimony). Both are important in overcoming the dragon.

   I want to renew my commitment to confess my Lord, claiming His precious blood, and I invite you, in the privacy of silent prayer, to join me in pledging to be faithful.

12:11b
They would rather die

    "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Rev. 12:11)

   "They loved not their lives unto the death." We saw that giving the testimony needed for overcoming means confessing Christ (Matt. 10:32, 33). When it's popular to be a Christian that testimony is easy. But what if it's not popular? In the days of the Reformation, people like Luther and Tyndale and Wycliffe and those who accepted their messages stood for Christ in the face of death, and many paid the price. I believe that God will give us the strength to stand as we need it, but can we stand then if we don't apply that power to overcome in the little things now? Here is a verse I remember my mother quoting to me.

   "If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?" je1205. Also lu1610 and especially he1204.

   May we each stand for Christ moment by moment, day by day, as we run with the footmen.

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