Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Rev 12:1-5
We have to remember that this chapter deviates from the chronological progression that we have seen in Revelation so far, because its purpose is to identify the beast which we encountered for the first time in Rev 11, the beast which ascends from the bottomless pit, who wages war against the two witnesses and kills them. This chapter, then, is giving us a summary, and it is not necessarily chronological, but thematic.
The woman is not at first identified, but the crown of twelve stars helps: a star is a spiritual authority, twelve of them calls to mind the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman gives birth to a male child, who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron. This identifies the child as the Messiah and Redeemer, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now we can better place the woman:
“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Gen 3:15
Here is the woman again, the mother of the Messiah and Redeemer. The woman cannot be Eve, because she did not bear the Redeemer. The woman also cannot be Mary; for the woman was crowned with twelve stars, and Mary was not even a noblewoman within her own tribe. In fact, the woman is not any individual woman. The woman is the nation of Israel, the “wife” of the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth. It was Israel who brought forth the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
I have heard some say that the woman is the Church, and the twelve stars are the twelve apostles. This is why I believe that the woman cannot be the Church: the woman births the male child, i.e. she pre-dates him. But the Church did not exist before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It would be more accurate to say that the male child birthed the Church, than it would be to say that the Church birthed the male child.
How is it that the woman was clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet? There may be another interpretation of this passage, but I find it fascinating that there is a sign of the seed of the woman in the zodiac. The constellations were originally taught to Seth by God Himself, according to Josephus, as in them He wrote the everlasting gospel in the stars, which no man (or devil) could erase or change. (As in everything else, the enemy has twisted and perverted the study of the signs in the heavens which proclaim the glory of God, and the perversion is called astrology. However, the fact that the enemy twisted the signs and their meanings does not negate that God assigned them their places at their creation in order to serve as signs, or witnesses to Him, on the earth, when He first set the giant cosmic clock of the stars and planets in motion.)
The first sign is Virgo, or the virgin who brings forth a child. It just so happens that when Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem, the constellation Virgo was clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet. The word of God is so amazing, in that every single syllable is true in every particular!
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Rev 12:7-9
We are told who the great dragon is: it is Satan. The stars which were swept from heaven were fallen stars. We had already seen that stars, in Revelation, are angelic beings or spiritual powers. Rev 12:9 confirms for us that the stars who fell were angels, who sided with Satan when there was a great war in heaven. Enoch actually wrote a long book of prophecy about these fallen angels and the havoc they caused on the earth, and the judgment of God which was waiting for them and for the earth. Jude refers to these events in his short book. Enoch lived even before the Flood of Noah, so this war took place long ago.
In fact, the Hebrew scholars traditionally believed that the rebellion of Satan took place on the second day of creation. It was the only day in which God did not pronounce anything good.
So the great dragon is Satan, but Revelation gives us another detail about it: he has seven heads and ten horns. What is that all about?
Christine’s book The Revelation of Jesus Christ Revealed, based on these studies but greatly expanded, is now available at Revelation Revealed Online. You may also be interested in reading the Book Extras and joining in on the Discussion.