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18 November 2019

The Seed of the Woman and the Dragon - (Revelation 12:12-17)

Destruction_of_Leviathan by Gustave Dore
In Chapter 12 of the book of Revelation a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman “arrayed with the sun and the moon beneath her feet” and in labor pains (Revelation 12:1-5). The description borrows language from Joseph’s dream in which he saw the sun, the moon, and eleven stars rendering homage to him; the stars represented the twelve tribes of Israel paying homage to the twelfth star, Joseph (Genesis 37:9, Revelation 12:1-5).
This Woman represents the people of God. Elsewhere, the number twelve is associated with the saints, the redeemed people of the Lamb; she is the covenant community of God from both the Old and New Testament eras (Revelation 7:4-8, 21:12-14).
The labor pains symbolize the persecution of the covenant community in the era before the birth of her Son; it has the promise made to Adam and Eve in view, along with a prophecy from Isaiah: 
(Genesis 3:15-16) - “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children.”
(Isaiah 7:10-14) – “A sign...in the height above...a sign, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son.”
Likewise, in this passage, John sees a “great sign in the heaven, a woman…with child…and she brought forth a son.”
John then saw a second “sign,” a great red dragon with “seven heads and ten horns” poised to “devour” the Woman’s “child” as soon as she gives birth to it. This description associates this “dragon” with the fourth beast from the sea of Daniel’s vision, a creature that also had “ten horns” and “devoured.” In the book of Daniel, that beast represented a political power that persecuted God’s people (“The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them” - Daniel 7:21, 7:7-8, Revelation 13:1-4, 13:7).
The Woman gave birth to a “son, a male, who is going to shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron; and her child was seized toward God and toward his throne.” Two Old Testament passages are alluded to in verse 5. The shepherd who is to rule the nations is a messianic promise from Psalm 2:7-9 (“You are my Son…You will break them with a rod of iron). The Woman then brought forth a “son, a male,” an image derived from Isaiah 66:7 where “Zion,” a female figure, “brought forth a male.” (Septuagint - eteken arsen). To this latter clause, the book of Revelation adds the noun “son” or huios, which links both Old Testament passages to Revelation 12:5; what was promised in the past era finds fulfillment in the birth of this Woman’s “child.”
This messianic psalm was used previously to promise that overcoming believers will participate in Christ’s rule over the nations, a position he “received of my Father” (Revelation 2:27). It is applied to Jesus again when he is portrayed as a Rider on a White Horse who wields a “shall shepherd them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15).
This “son” born of the Woman is none other than the Messiah who came from the messianic community.  The identification is made explicit when a loud voice proclaims, “Now has come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ” (Revelation 12:10).
The Dragon’s attempt to destroy the son backfires. This attack occurred, not at Christ’s physical birth or when King Herod slaughtered the male children of Bethlehem, but at his execution on the cross.  By resurrecting Jesus, God turned Satan’s effort on its head and the death of the Son became his victory over the Dragon. Upon his “birth,” the “son is seized toward God and His throne.” Elsewhere, Christ’s installment on God’s Throne is linked to his sacrificial death (Revelation 1:4-5, 3:21, 5:5-10).
The Woman’s flight into the Wilderness evokes images from Israel’s escape from Egypt. Following the exaltation of the son, the covenant community begins another exodus in the “Wilderness.” The victory of the “son” does NOT mean the removal of the Woman or God’s people from the earth. Instead, He provides protection and “nourishment…in the Wilderness” (Revelation 12:6).
John next saw a “war in heaven,” a pictorial representation of the “heavenly battle” that lies behind events on the earth. A much larger conflict is transpiring behind the scenes that is not readily apparent to individual saints and congregations. This manifests on the earth in attempts by the Dragon’s earthly allies to deceive and persecute the church; most immediately, in the daily struggles of the seven churches of Asia against apostasy, false teachers, false accusers, and persecution by local authorities (Revelation 12:7-12).
A “loud voice heard in heaven” interprets the vision (cp. Revelation 1:10, 19:1). It declares Satan’s defeat because of the victory of the Son achieved by his death and resurrection. The Devil has lost his legal basis to accuse the saints before God. They are declared “not guilty” in the heavenly court and are exempt from the “second death” (Revelation 2:11, 20:6).
With the victory of the Messiah, Satan’s traditional role of the accuser has come to an end. His ultimate defeat is assured but he is not yet out of the fight. With his expulsion from the “courts” of heaven, he assumes the role of the deceiver of the world, the one “who is deceiving the whole habitable earth” (cp. Job 1:9, 2:5, Zechariah 3:1-2, Luke 10:18).
A voice declares “woe” to the earth and the sea because the Devil has come down “having great fury.” Note well: this warning is to the “earth and the sea,” not to the unrepentant inhabitants of the earth. It portrays the Dragon’s impending attacks against the saints. The Greek noun used here for “fury” (thumos) is a different one than the term rendered “wrath” elsewhere in the book (or orgé).
In the book of Revelation, “wrath” is directed against the “inhabitants of the earth” at the instigation of God or the Lamb, not the Devil (Revelation 6:1-8, 8:5-9:21, 16:1-21). In contrast, Satan’s “fury” or thumos is thrown against the saints (Revelation 11:7, 13:7-10).
(Revelation 12:13-17) – “And when the Dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he pursued the Woman who had brought forth the male. And there were given to the Woman the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly into the Wilderness to her place where she is nourished a time, times half a time from the face of the Serpent. And the Serpent cast out of his mouth water like a river after the Woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. And the earth helped the Woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river that the Dragon cast out of his mouth. And the Dragon was angered against the woman and went away to make war with the rest of her Seed, with them who were keeping the commandments of God and holding the testimony of Jesus.”
The Dragon is enraged; he is unable to destroy the Son. His final defeat is assured and he knows he has only a “short time” remaining to inflict destruction. He vents his rage by persecuting the Woman, not the unsaved inhabitants of the earth.
God’s “nourishing” of the Woman alludes to the story of Yahweh feeding Israel in the wilderness with “manna.” Jesus previously promised to give “hidden manna” to saints who overcome. God sustains the woman through the persecuting activities of the Dragon. The “two wings of the eagle” is an allusion to the Exodus story where Yahweh declared to Israel, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bare you on eagles' wings” (Exodus 16:15-35, 19:3-4, Revelation 2:17, 11:1-2).
The reference to the “Serpent” is a verbal link t0 the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden when she was “deceived” by the Serpent’s lies. The image of the “Serpent casting water like a river out of his mouth” does not refer to literal floodwaters but to Satan’s flood of deception poured out against the Woman (Genesis 3:13).
The churches of Asia experienced such deceptive onslaughts from the Nicolaitans, “false apostles,” “Jezebel,” and the “doctrines of Balaam.” In each case, the attack was associated with Satan:  the “synagogue of Satan,” the “throne of Satan,” and the “deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:2, 2:9, 2:13-14, 2:20-24, 3:9).
But God intervenes to thwart the Serpent assault against the Woman. Enraged further, he turns his fury against the “rest of the Woman’s seed, to make war with them who were keeping the commandments of God and holding the testimony of Jesus.”
To make war with them” is a clause from Daniel 7:21 where the “Little Horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them.” It is also a verbal link to the Two Witnesses against whom the Beast from the Abyss “will make war with them, overcome them, and slay them” (Revelation 11:7).
The description at the end of Chapter 12 of Revelation forms a transition to the next section. The story of the Beast from the Sea in the next chapter will provide a more detailed picture of this onslaught against the Woman’s “seed.” It is also another link to the previous destruction of the Two Witnesses by the Beast from The Abyss. That is, the three images portray certain aspects of the same set of events; all three visions are closely related (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:1-10).
The saints who make up the “rest of the Woman’s seed” are those who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” This clause is a link to the martyrs seen under the altar when the Lamb opened the sixth seal: “Who had been slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had.” They were told that they must wait until the full number of their brethren “who were going to be slain as even they” were gathered in by God. (Revelation 12:17).
The Woman’s “seed” represents the saints who follow the Lamb. They are identified with Jesus because they have the “testimony of Jesus.” This company is not Israel or a group of ethnic Jews, though many individuals among their number will be of Israelite descent. The war against the woman’s “seed” includes several verbal links to other passages in Revelation where the Devil or his agents waged war against followers of Jesus described variously as “saints,” the “two witnesses,” and they who have the “testimony of Jesus.”
In short, the vision of the Dragon persecuting the “seed of the Woman” represents Satan’s ongoing "war" against the saints of God, the men and women redeemed from every nation by the Lamb. This group is comprised of individuals who have overcome the Dragon by the “blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives unto death” (Revelation 12:11). God vindicates their overcoming faith, not by removing them from the earth, but by sustaining them through the onslaughts of the Dragon.

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