A Commentary on Revelation Chapter 12


John saw a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: Some say this woman was Mary, the Man child Jesus, the moon, the Jewish law.  Then the dragon must have been Herod, and the heaven to which the child was caught up must have been Egypt.  But none of this will fit the rod (God’s word that was given to measure with).  Mary was never clothed with the sun.  She never had a crown of twelve stars on her head.  Herod had but one head and no horns, while the dragon had seven heads and ten horns.  Egypt would be a poor representative of heaven.  If this is the case, who are the other children of verse 17?

Here I present a much more consistent representation[CH5]:

1.   The “woman” represents the church.

2.   “Her head” represents Christ. (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Col. 1:18).

3.   “Clothed with the sun” represents the church clothed with the Gospel or Christ’s glory.  Mal. 4:2.

4.   “Crown of twelve stars” represents the 12 Apostles that Jesus chose.

5.   “Moon” represents the Old dispensation, which like the moon shines only from borrowed light.

6.   “The woman brought forth a man child” represents The Church giving birth to the citizens of heaven. Cf. Isa 66:7-10. The nation of Israel was referred to as a man-child born of a woman[CH6] It is no great thing therefore if we refer to the Church giving birth to Children, that is, having an increase in its membership.

7.   The Dragon represents a government that acted like a beast.  It has seven heads and ten horns.  The Western Roman government passed through seven forms of rule and was divided into ten parts. The dragon’s tail drew down stars; or eminent men of the church were carnalized and they scandalized the church.  The dragon that persecuted the church, Pagan Rome, was not akin to her but her mortal enemy. This despotic government, both in its pagan and papal form, was the bitter and relentless foe of civil and religious liberty.  For the entire period of the dark ages she was the foe of every true believer.  The church would preach the “blood of the Lamb” and by their testimony and living sacrifice would destroy the dragon from of government.  We should note that the papacy assumed the Lordship and Priesthood of the church.  It is the same church during the same period contending chiefly against the same power in chapter 12; but the contention is over another sort of ruler-ship.  In this chapter the civil rule or temporal lordship is in question.  I need only remind the reader that popery claimed to rule in the state as well as in the church and the pope wears a triple crown in testimony of the fact that he rules in earth, heaven and Hades.  But God secured the church for 1260 years during the reign of the Papal See.  The red dragon arose to destroy the child but God safely secured it.  The church remained hidden from view and the dragon continued on in medieval splendor.  The Pope tried to find every dissenter and have him tried and exterminated, but the Church was hidden.  He made war against them that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.  The Pope hasn’t given up or let up.

Now its coming clear to our minds.  The dragon represents Rome.  Rome was the empire used of Satan to try to destroy the Savior.  The Dragon had “ten horns.”  A horn grows out of the head of an animal.  A horn, you remember, is a king.  When the Roman Empire collapsed, ten divisions resulted.  Barbarian tribes hammered at the Roman empire for many years until it fell apart and the ten divisions were ruled by ten kings!  They were: the Alemani (Germany), the Franks (French), Burgundians (Switzerland), the Suevi (Portugal), the Anglo-Saxons (Britain), the Visigoths (Spain), the Lombards (Italy), the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Heruli.  The Pope of Rome destroyed the last three because they refused to become Christian.  The last of these, the Ostrogoths, were thrust out of the city of Rome by the armies of Emperor Justinian and have become extinct.  Then in 538 A.D. the pope took possession of the city. These ten divisions of Rome are the ten horns of the “dragon.”


      1    A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

 A woman refers to the Church.

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Eph 5:23

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.  2 Cor 11:2

The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  Isa 62:11

Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman Gal 4:31

But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.  Gal. 4:26

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  Rev 21:2

The sun is a symbol of a light giver. Therefore, the church is clothed with the New Testament which gives light to its followers.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  Psalms 119:105

The moon is a reflection of the sun.  The woman is seen standing on the moon.  Therefore, she is standing on the Old Testament and dressed with the New Testament.

The twelve stars must refer to the 12 Apostles at the head of the Church.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?   Genesis 37:9,l0

There were 12 stars of the Old Testament and there are 12 stars of the New Testament.

      2    She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

If the Woman is the Church then this must have reference to an increase in her family.

“Before she goes into labor, she gives birth;

before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son.

Who has ever heard of such a thing?

Who has ever seen such things?

Can a country be born in a day

or a nation be brought forth in a moment?

Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.

Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord.

“Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God

“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.”   Isa. 66:7-10

The above text shows that the nation of Israel was referred to as A MAN CHILD BORN OF A WOMAN.  It is no great thing therefore if we refer to the Church giving birth to Children, that is, having an increase in its membership.

      3    Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.

The remaining part of the book will talk extensively about this red dragon.  It is therefore necessary that we identify who or what he is.  The Dragon was the standard of Pagan Rome in the third century.  The best way to explain the meaning of the Dragon with seven heads and ten horns is to let the Prophet Daniel tell us the meaning.  Here is what Daniel has to say about it:

After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast–terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns Dan. 7:7

Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws–the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.  Dan 7:19

Dear reader, are you anxious to know the true meaning of the fourth beast with 7 heads and 10 horns?  If so then lets have Daniel tell us who it is:

He gave me this explanation: “The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.  Dan. 7:23

Now that should forever settle whom the beast is.  In Daniel chapter two he speaks of four Kingdoms and identifies them as Babylon, Media Persia, Greece and the fourth as the Roman Empire.  It is stated in both Daniel and the Revelation that this Empire would have seven heads.  As we examine the Empire we notice that it passed through seven Heads.  1) It was ruled over by seven kings for about 200 years.  2) Consuls  3) Tribunes  4) Decemvirs  5) Dictators  6) 65 Emperors ruled in Rome for 5 centuries.  7) Exarchs of Ravenna ruled for more than a century.  This 7 headed beast has 10 horns, or ten kings (kingdoms) over which she ruled for 1260 years.  We here identify them as the ten kingdoms of Europe.  1) German Empire  2) Austrian Empire  3) Belgium  4) Holland  5) France  6) Spain  7) Italy  8) Switzerland  9) Portugal  10) Great Britain.

      4    His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

The elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail.   Isa 9:15

The lies of the dragon drew a third part of the stars (prominent men, Bishops etc.) of the church and caused them to fall back into earthly and political realms.  The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.  When the dragon saw that he was doomed to an overthrow he persecuted the church (Woman) and was violently enraged against the church on earth.  The child is safe; that is the ultimate progress and extension of the church is certain.  She is constrained to flee into the wilderness.  It was only in the mountains, dens and caves of the earth that the true church could meet and worship during the 1260 years of the dark ages.  The church always existed during this time.  But she was hid from his wrath.

      5    She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Now we must examine this a little closer.  Lets again let the Bible interpret the Bible.  Look ahead to verse 17:  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.  This could hardly be the virgin Mary!  I prefer the interpretation already set forth, namely that the Woman is the Church, standing on the Old Testament, enlightened by the New Testament, giving Birth to citizens of the heavenly kingdom.   Notice that the rest of her children are identified as her offspring, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. Well, that is what is taught in Daniel:

Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.  Daniel 7: 27

And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.  This figure of speech surely means that there is a glorious elevation. Paul tells us that when we are saved by grace we are seated with Christ in heavenly places.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.  Eph. 2:6

      6    The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

When the woman (church) fled into the desert (Wilderness K.J.) God nourished her for 1260 long years during the dark ages.  They hid from Julian the Apostate, They hid from the Vandals and the Goths. They hid from Nero and the other Emperors of Pagan Rome.  They hid in Persia from the fury of Julian the Apostate.  They hid from the Pope’s war against the Albigenses.  They hid during the Inquisition from the “Hounds.”  They hid in Germany; they hid in the Netherlands; they hid in Ireland; they hid in England.  Consider the Quakers, John Bunyan, the French Protestants, Dr. Judson.  The list is endless.

      7    And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.

This is not in the eternal realm.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Eph. 6:11-13

I have quoted the above passage so that you may be able to see that when Christians on earth stand up against things that are wrong and battle for the right, that is likened to warfare.  We must ever be battling against the powers of darkness.  The following verses will give us more insight into this battle.

      8    But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.

Please notice that it was the 7-headed l0-horned beast that lost the battle.  We have in previous verses identified him as IMPERIAL ROME.  With this truth before us we must look and see how he lost his place in heaven (that is his exalted place).  Rome failed in the war against Christianity. Christianity won—it obtained a lasting victory.

      9    The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

The great dragon was identified by Daniel as the fourth kingdom on earth in Daniel chapter 7.  In chapter 2 he identifies it as the Pagan Roman Empire.  Old Pagan Rome went down in defeat.  When she killed a Christian it called for an army of saints who were ready to die for Jesus Christ. She tried to destroy the Saints but couldn’t. The mighty Pagan powers went down in defeat.  Christianity won the battle.

      10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”

 The mighty Roman Empire was crumbling. Paganism was giving way to the cross. The accuser of God’s people was being silenced.  The kingdom of our God was coming to its rightful place The euphoria of victory was everywhere.

      11  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Paganism was overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by the Word and by Martyrdom.  The Devil was overcome with the testimony of Stephen, who suffered martyrdom at Jerusalem.  He was overcome by the testimony of James the son of Zebedee, martyred by Herod Agrippa.   He was overcome by the testimony of Phillip who was martyred in Phrygia.  He was overcome by the testimony of Matthew who was martyred in Ethiopia.  He was overcome by the testimony of James the Less who was martyred by the Jews.  He was overcome by the testimony of Andrew who was martyred at Edina.  He was overcome by the testimony of Mark who was martyred at Alexandria.  He was overcome by the testimony of Peter who, as some do write, was martyred at Rome.  He was overcome by the testimony of Paul who was martyred at Rome.  The list is endless.  The trail of blood continues to this present moment of time.  Attempts were make to extirpate Christianity from the earth.  Churches have been burnt.  Bibles gathered and destroyed.  Millions have been killed.  Christian worship has been forbidden.  These are but a few of the soldiers of the cross who fought from pulpit to prison for our freedom in Christ.  Could it be that we haven’t learned the right lessons from this victory?  Are we trying to win the victory with big fancy buildings, high paid preachers, large budgets and silent witnesses who refuse to testify?

      12  “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

It is right to rejoice over a victory.  This book tells us that they rejoiced when Jesus returned to the heavens for his Coronation.  It was a victory celebration because he had redeemed mankind.  When Babylon the Great fell in Revelation, chapter nineteen, they said, “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God.”

      13  When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

 In the previous verse the dragon was called the Devil.  This is Satan personified in Pagan powers.   When Jesus was tempted of the Devil he was told that if he would worship him that he would give him all the kingdoms of this world.  Satan controlled the kingdoms of this world, which were Pagan.  When this 7-headed, 10-horned beast went down in defeat at the hands of Constantine and the Holy Roman Empire rose upon its ruins the Devil regrouped and again started to attack the Woman (Church) and her membership. In 312 A.D., Constantine marched forth to do battle for the right to rule the Roman Empire.  At this time he was not a Christian, however his mother, Helena, was.  The church watched his progress with interest.  The Italian emperor opposed to him was Maxentius.  He had vowed to Jupiter and to his followers that he would rid the world of Christians. The Pagan world rallied to his support.  There were three great battles. Maxentius lost.  Constantine became the ruler of Rome. In the East another emperor, Licinius, was still in power.  Finally in battle he was crushed.  When Constantine finally took control, the defenders of Paganism knew they were facing ruin.  Constantine first decreed the toleration of his mothers religion (Christianity).  He even made it the official religion of the Empire.  He decreed that Sunday, the sacred day of Christianity, would be observed.  No work or trade was permitted on Sunday.  He then abolished the bloody combats of gladiators.  He called forth a council of Christian bishops, known as the council of Nicea.  Then in 321, he decreed that the Pagan religion should no longer exist in the Roman Empire and that their temples should be leveled or made into churches.  He shook the mighty Roman Empire by moving its capital from Rome to Constantinople.  He commanded his entire army to be baptized and become Christians.  The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by Gibbon “as a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and night.”

      14  The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.

Figures like this are familiar to any student of the Old Testament.  When God brought his people out of Egypt he used similar language.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.’”  Exodus 19:3,4

The woman (church) hid in the wilderness for a time (360), times(720), and half time (180).  This is a total 1260 prophetic days.  This long period of time is known as the Dark Ages.  She hid in the wilderness, in the deserts, in the Catacombs of Rome, and caverns of the earth.  She was destitute, afflicted, tormented, but like the prophets of old she obtained a good report.

      15  Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.

A bold figure showing that the Devil will use every possible means to destroy the woman.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  2 Sam. 22:17

“The flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us.”  Psalms 124:4

“Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners.”  Psalms 144:7

“See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong. Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind, like a driving rain and a flooding downpour, he will throw it forcefully to the ground.”  Isa 28:2

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  Isa. 43:2

      16  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

From the above passages it can be seen that the figures of a flood pouring out, simply meant that a torrent of words and statements would come from the Devil like a downpour of rain.  In this passage the earth is seen absorbing the water like a sponge.  It was in this world that the Christians took refuge during the terrible storms of persecutions.

      17  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The dragon which we identified as Pagan powers, now seeing that he cannot win against the church goes and opens up a new front.  He will attack from the front but if he is defeated there he will attack from the flank.  Just because the devil is defeated in one theater of operation is no sign he will not start trouble somewhere else.  He is always attacking the Woman (Church or visible Body) and he is also attacking individual Christians (her offspring).  Some interpreters say that the Woman was the Virgin Mary and that the Man Child was Jesus.  Are the rest of her offspring the literal brothers of Jesus?