8: Revelation 12: Reading from the Scroll – The First Sign
At this point in Revelation’s heavenly worship service, the readings from the scroll begin. The messages are told through pictures of the history of creation and salvation. Old Testament images, contemporary “apocalyptic” images, numerical symbols and Christian symbols all intertwine to create a fascinating story. But if we try to read it as “reality” we end up struggling to give rational meaning to pictorial symbolism, and risk missing the message—just like an alien trying to understand why Batman’s fist should create star-shaped patterns in the air with “BAM” and “POW” written across them.
List of Signs
1. A History of Salvation. The dragon and the child. 12:1-17
2. The Deception of False Government. The beast from the sea. 13:1-10
3. The Consequences of False Religion. The beast from the earth 13:11-13:18
4. The Union of Heaven and Earth. The 144,000. 14:1-5
5. God’s answer. 3 angels. 14:6-13
6. God’s Harvest. 14:14-20
7. Sabbath Rest. Vision of the Righteous. 15:1-4
First Sign: A History of Salvation:
Revelation 12:1-17 tells the story of the woman, the son, and the dragon.
1. The woman: Revelation 12:1-2
The symbols used to describe the woman would have brought the nation of Israel to mind for early readers:
1a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.
The Moon symbolizes the Old Testament, a reflection of God’s glory.
The Sun symbolizes the New Testament, the new covenant of Christ.
12 stars symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel.
Suffering brings to mind the suffering of Old Testament Israel.
The image of Joseph in Genesis would clearly be brought to mind: Genesis 37:9-10 9He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
2. The dragon: Revelation 12:3-4
The dragon symbolizes Satan
3a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
7 heads: The head symbolizes vigour, and 7 symbolizes the supernatural – God’ plan rather than man’s. Thus the dragon has supernatural vigor, but only in accordance with God’s plan.
7 crowns: A crown symbolizes authority, suggesting a creature of supernatural authority, again bound by God’s plan.
10 horns: A horn symbolizes power, and ten symbolizes purely human, measurable limits.
1/3 of the stars: As three represents God, and the stars, or the heavens, His domain, a third of the stars would represent a divinely ordained portion of what belongs to God.
Red symbolizes sin (Isaiah 1:18)
In the modern world, there’s a great temptation to wonder what a dragon with all these properties would look like. In the ancient world the interest was more in what the properties “meant.” By focusing on what we can imagine, or what we can picture, we lose the intended focus on truths beyond our imagination.
3. The son: Revelation 12:5
The son is described with many of the symbols which are used to point to Jesus
5And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.
Psalm 2: 7I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you. 8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
4. Time of the Woman’s protection: Revelation 12:6
1,260 days = 3 ½ years = ½ of 7 years = ½ of the time of the created world.
The period translates symbolically in the same way as “a time, times and half a time” in 12:14, and reminds readers that God will continue to protect Israel – He does NOT reject her.
5. Time Before Christ. Revelation 12:7-8
This verse introduces Michael the Archangel, the Guardian of Israel, seen before in Jude and Daniel.
Jude 1:9 9But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil…
Daniel 10:13,21, 12:1 1“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people…
Michael and his angels fight against Satan throughout the Old Testament.
6. Birth and death of Christ. Revelation 12:9-12
There is a sense in which Jesus splits time. In this interpretation, the woman’s pregnancy and labor takes place as Israel is beloved and prepared for the birth of the Messiah. The life of Christ, and most particularly his death, leads to Satan’s being cast out of heaven. And the time afterward—the present time—is short and can only lead to God’s final victory.
11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…
Luke 10:18 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.
Michael’s battle is won. Now it’s our turn, with Christ our champion.
7. Time After Christ. Revelation 12:13-17
Satan wages war on earth against Israel (the woman) and Christianity (the rest of her children).
17Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children
Eagles wings are a reminder of Exodus 19:4 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
The serpent might remind readers of the serpents in the desert Numbers 21:8-9 Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
The flood is reminiscent of Noah’s flood, as if Satan attempts to copy God’s miracles. But God’s rainbow reminds us we will not be destroyed.
6 more signs remain...