Revelation 12 is perhaps the Bible’s most comprehensive chapter in its breadth and scope. It’s focus highlights the battle between Christ and Satan, and traces this “great controversy” through the Old Testament, Christ’s life, the New Testament era, and the end times. This chapter reveals that since the formation of Israel in the Old Testament, God has had an organized, visible church on earth, and the woman—and “the remnant of her seed”—in Revelation 12, represents this body of believers.
Chapter 12 provides a launching pad for the second half of the book of Revelation, and its warning of “woe” to the earth in verse 12 connects it with the earlier two “woes” associated with the fifth and sixth trumpets. The end-time closing events referenced in Revelation 12:17, then, complete the prophetic events of the seventh trumpet and include the following tremendous events:
During this climactic time period the mystery of God is also “finished” or “completed.” This mystery is the fulfillment of the prophetic message “declared to [God’s] servants the prophets”—the call to and promise of victory over sin.
Some have seen a chiastic structure in Revelation 12. Such a structure centers in the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church, and assures us that His victory is also theirs.
The woman of Revelation12 represents God’s visible, organized church on earth through all ages. Both the Old and New Testaments use the symbol of a woman to represent God’s church (Jeremiah 6:2; 2 Corinthians 11:2). While we often think of the word “church” as pointing to a New Testament-era institution, the deacon Stephen in his final testimony before his martyrdom spoke about ancient Israel as God’s “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). The very symbol of the woman in Revelation 12 also points to the fact that in God’s sight, His faithful people have always formed one body of believers as they are united in Christ. There is, after all, only one woman in this chapter, whether she is pregnant or fleeing into the wilderness.
Several identifying marks of God’s people are identified in Revelation 12:1. Read the verses below and discuss:
The Bible clearly identifies the red dragon in Revelation 12 as the devil, or Satan (Revelation 12:7-9). Although Satan was cast out of heaven at the beginning of the controversy (Revelation 12:9), he still apparently had access to heaven in his claim to be the ruler of Earth (see Job 1:6-12). Following Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, however (summarized in Revelation 12:5), Satan was again “cast down” (Revelation 12:10), apparently indicating that since the cross Satan has been confined to this earth awaiting his punishment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). The dragon’s increased anger at the end of time (Revelation 12:17) comes in large part from the fact that he realizes his eternal destruction is drawing near (Revelation 12:12).
After the dragon fails to destroy the man child, or Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:3-5), he turns his attention to the woman and attacks her (Revelation 12:6,13-17). The prophetic time period of this persecution is given twice in verses 6 and 14, and both point to the 1,260-year period from AD 538-1798 when the papal power effectively controlled civil government, suppressed the Scriptures, and persecuted those who chose to follow God’s Word. During this time God’s faithful people, represented by the woman in Revelation 12, were chased and persecuted from place to place until they found refuge in the “wilderness,” particularly the sparsely-populated New World of North America. “It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation” (GC 292).
The Bible uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-27). “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” writes Paul in Ephesians 5:30. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (verse 31, emphasis added). Just as a husband and wife choose to walk through life together, Christ and His people make the same decision. And just as a married couple shares the experiences of life, so do Christ and His church. Christ’s experiences on earth were in fact prophecies of what His body, the church, would pass through in the centuries after His return to heaven. The illustration below shows that “what happens to the Head, happens to the body”!
Revelation 12:17 predicts that at the end of time, God will have a final, visible, organized church on earth. The Bible reveals several important identifying characteristics of this end-time church.
There is a fifth identifying characteristic of the “remnant of the woman’s seed,” and that is that this end-time church will share in the experiences of Jesus Christ, its Head, just as the woman has in previous ages. The chart below illustrates how the last week of Christ’s life, in particular, serves as a prophecy of events in the formation and prophetic future of the remnant church.
Learn more about the parallels between Christ and the woman of Revelation 12 in the 24-part study guide set Living in the Final Week, available at www.PathwayToParadise.org.
Deception is a serious issue at the end of time, one that Revelation repeatedly predicts will threaten God’s people (Revelation 13:13,14; 16:14; 12:9; 20:10; also Matthew 24:24). Revelation reveals that chief among Satan’s deceptions will be his efforts to counterfeit the work of God, and especially that of Jesus Christ.
Just as God has a remnant people at the end of time, He also brought a remnant of Israel back from Babylonian captivity, and gave them the opportunity to accomplish His purposes for them. Daniel 9:24-27 reveals seven characteristics of the Old Testament remnant.
Notice the similarities with God’s end-time remnant movement:
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