Revelation 12

The Word Made Fresh

1Then a great wonder appeared in heaven. There was a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was beneath her feet. On her head was a crown of twelve stars. 2She was pregnant, and crying out in the pain of giving birth. 3Then another wonder appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his seven heads. 4He swept away a third of the stars of heaven with his tail and threw them to the earth. Then he stood before the woman who was giving birth, intending to devour the child as soon as it was born. 5She gave birth to a son who is to rule all the nations with an iron rod, but her child was taken away and given to God and to his throne. 8The woman fled into the wilderness where there was a place God prepared for her so that there she could be looked after for a thousand two hundred sixty days.

7Then there was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8but they were defeated and no longer had a place in heaven. 9The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient snake who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world. He was thrown down to the earth along with all his angels.

10Then I heard a voice in heaven loudly proclaiming,
“Now the salvation, power, and kingdom of our God,
and the rule of his Christ, have come,
because the one who accuses our brothers
day and night before our God has been thrown down.
11He was conquered by the blood of the lamb and by their testimony,
for they didn’t cling to life even when facing death.
12So, rejoice, all of you who dwell in heaven,
but woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you in rage
because he knows his time is coming to an end.”

13So, when the dragon realized he had been thrown down to earth he persecuted the woman who had given birth to a son. 14But she was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she could flee from the snake into the wilderness, to her place where she will be nourished for a time, times, and half a time. 15Then the snake poured water from its mouth like a river to sweep the woman away with a flood. 16But the earth came to her aid, opening its mouth and swallowing the river the dragon had poured from its mouth. 17The dragon was angry with the woman then, and went to attack the rest of her children – the ones who keep God’s commandments and cling to the witness of Jesus.

18The dragon went and stood on the seashore.


1-6: With the opening of the temple of heaven John’s vision changes from the earthly realms to the heavenly realms; perhaps we should understand the transition to be from the physical to the spiritual world. And it is a strange world. A pregnant woman is pictured, “clothed with the sun,” standing on the moon, and wearing a crown made up of twelve stars — the zodiac, sounds like. John says the woman is a portent, a sign of some reality but not the reality itself. She is in labor. Another portent appears: a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. Stars are swept from the sky by the dragon’s tail as he takes up a position in front of the woman to eat her baby. She gives birth to a son who is to rule with “an iron rod” (Psalm 2:9), which identifies him as the Messiah. The child is “snatched away” and taken to the throne of God; clearly the child is intended to be Christ, who died and was resurrected and ascended to heaven. The woman escapes the dragon by going to a place in the wilderness prepared for her by God where she is cared for over a span of 3½ years. The woman cannot be identified specifically with Mary, but the child is obviously Jesus, and the dragon is the power of evil that manifested itself in many ways — Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, Judas, Satan — to destroy him. The woman’s retreat to the wilderness calls to mind the story of Israel entering the wilderness to escape the “dragon” Pharaoh.

7-9: A cosmic war breaks out. The forces of evil are led by the dragon, now clearly identified as the Devil and Satan. The forces of good are led by the archangel Michael. Here the vision seems to have been influenced by the apocalyptic elements in the book of Daniel (Daniel 12:1 — see also Jude 1:9). Satan and his angels are defeated and thrown out of the spiritual realm into (or down to) the physical realm; that is, the earth.

10-12: John hears a voice call out from heaven, the spiritual realm. The voice proclaims that Satan the accuser (see Job 1) has been thrown down — that is, cast out of heaven. He has accused “our brothers,” a reference to the martyrs and other faithful ones who have died, but they have countered his accusations with “the blood of the Lamb.” The phrase evokes memories of the old system of animal sacrifice in Israel; Christ is seen as the perfect lamb that takes away all sins. So, heaven rejoices, but woe to the earth for the dragon has now taken up residence there.

13-17: The previous two paragraphs seem to have been a flashback to explain how Satan came to be on the earth. In terms of chronology verse 13 follows on verse 3 and continues the account of the dragon’s pursuit of the woman and her child. The woman flees to the wilderness (as in verse 6) but now John tells us that she is aided by having been given “the two wings of the great eagle” — perhaps a reference to the fourth “living creature” mentioned at the beginning of the vision (4:7). The dragon tries to drown her in a flood, but the earth itself becomes a player in the drama and opens to swallow the flood, and she is protected. The dragon then goes off to make war against “the rest of her children,” the Church. This part of the vision reads like an apocalyptic version of what has already historically taken place: the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and the persecutions that sought to destroy his followers, “the rest of her children.”

The dragon takes a position on the seashore, still a threat.


The truth about the nature of good and evil is that evil, no matter how things appear in life, cannot overcome good.