A great 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. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its 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 it might devour her child the moment he was born. 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. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 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. 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 Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over 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. 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.” When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. – Revelation 12:1-17
This passage begins with fantastic imagery of a woman with child and a red dragon. It is not so clear who the pregnant woman is in this story, unless it is referring in some time-bending way to Mary who gave birth to Jesus. More on this later… This woman is described as being “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” She gives birth to a male child that is/was immediately taken up into Heaven to reside next to God. The woman is/was sent into the wilderness on earth for a strangely specific 1,260 days, roughly 3.5 years. This event triggers some sort of spiritual skirmish between the powers of darkness and God’s angels and followers.
The war of the worlds, which has up to this point been taking place on earth. It is about to expand into the heavens. I assume this means in the spiritual realm, but that is unclear. It involves Michael and his angels fighting what is described as a dragon and his angels. It turns out this dragon is actually the “ancient serpent” also called the devil or Satan. There seems to be some sort of “time bending” going here. I am somewhat confused by the timing and events. It is not clear to me if this passage is describing a past event that resulted in Satan taking over the earth or if this is a future battle. Perhaps both? Maybe this in another example of the author attempting to describe the indescribable. Events that take place in the spiritual realm that are potentially outside of our linear time domain. I do not know.
God shows up with “the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah”. God’s triumphs over the accuser that rules the earth, Satan, the “accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night”. God ultimately is triumphant over him “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”. Jesus’ love for us, including His sacrifice and resurrection, combined with the witness of faithful followers, have resulted in the defeat of the accuser. This is the essence of the Gospel as shared by Jesus and His disciples. He came to provide forgiveness and grace for all of us through His blood and sacrifice. Those who choose to accept this forgiveness and grace are participating in the overthrow of Satan in their lives, and in some sense Satan’s exile from the earth. It is not clear if this exile is from the physical earth or the spiritual space where our souls reside.
The followers being referred to here were attending to the care and feeding of their souls rather than their earthly vessels “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death”. They were frequent visitors to God’s gym to bulk up their souls so they would be ready for this challenge. Their choices to accept the blood of the Lamb and attend to their eternal souls on earth have prepared them to be present in Heaven. Satan on the other hand is angry and taking it out on the earth and those still dwelling there “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.”
Satan pursues the woman who has given birth to a male child in the beginning of the passage and she is given eagles wings and hidden from him on earth. Satan pursues her and spews forth water like a river out of his mouth “to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.” Water, the substance that Jesus used to refer to Himself (Living Water), is being used by Satan to overtake and harm the woman. Fortunately God is bigger than Satan and his plans. God uses the earth to foil Satan’s plan “the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth”. This is a fantastic and complex vision which I am sure holds meaning that I am missing. Many deep pools and undercurrents here that one could spend many days exploring, but alas I need to head on down river so I will be content to look back and wonder.
In the end the Dragon, Satan, gives up his single-minded pursuit of the woman and “went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” This part of the passage almost sounds like the woman is the mother of many like Eve is described in Genesis. The temporal tapestry presented here is very confusing. So many questions. Who is the woman? Who is the male child? How do these events relate to Jesus and His arrival as a Godly condensate on earth? Is this passage describing a past, present, or future set of events? Reading a passage like this makes me feel like a land dweller reading a sea creature’s stories. I feel like my material mind has no context or container for these metaphysical mysteries.
Prayer: God help us to understand, or at least accept, the mysteries of the metaphysical until the time when our souls can see and understand them.