12-7 The Dragon And
The copious links between
Rev.12 and Matt.24 have been tabulated elsewhere (4). This
chapter therefore has reference to the last days as well as AD70, bearing
in mind the reference of the Olivet prophecy to these two periods. What
proves this beyond doubt is that as soon as the dragon is cast out we
are told " Now is come salvation...the Kingdom of our God...for
the accuser of our brethren is cast down" (12:10). Neither salvation
nor the Kingdom of God can fully come without the second coming. If Scripture
interprets Scripture, then the dragon being cast out must refer to the
events of the second coming. There is rejoicing because the believers
were no longer being accused (Greek 'seized upon' or accused in a law
court), implying that this will be going on until the dragon/beast is
cast out by Michael, the Angel who acts for God's people in the last days
(Dan.12:1). The dragon accusing them before God sounds like Job's satan-
as if the supreme intensity of suffering brought upon a materialistic,
self-justifying Job to make him fit for God's full fellowship points forward
to our tribulation to come. As Job was brought to say that he had heard
of God by the hearing of the ear (theoretically), but now, through his
sufferings, " mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5), so the latter
day tribulation will develop us.
The tell-tale three
and a half year period occurs again in Rev.12:6, and again there are references
to Israel in Egypt; the woman flees away from the dragon (cp. Egypt) into
a wilderness, but is pursued by the dragon (12:13), who tries to use water
as a means of destroying her (12:15; cp. the Red Sea), but miraculously
this is rendered powerless. The woman is carried on eagle's wings, as
Israel were out of Egypt
(Ex.19:4). The woman is " nourished" during the three and a
half years, as Israel were fed
with manna in the wilderness. Jesus reasons in John 6 that the manna represents
the word of God. It may follow that the nourishing of the seed of the
woman in the wilderness of her latter day tribulation will be through
some special spiritual feeding programme designed by God. It may well
be through an increased level of understanding of the Apocalypse and other
prophecies of the tribulations which we will then be experiencing (see
The description of a
conflict between a serpent and a woman and her seed in 12:14-16 must refer
back to Gen.3:15- from which we can conclude that there will be a short
term victory for the devil/ dragon over the seed of the woman in the last
days. Rev.12 indicates that the dragon is unsuccessful in totally destroying
the woman, and therefore turns in a brief period of fury " to make
war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus" (12:17). Here we have the same idea
as in 11:7; three and a half years of witnessing amidst persecution, followed
by a brief, intense period of horror, as Christ's three and a half year
ministry was terminated by three and a half days of especial suffering.
Notice that the dragon goes into the wilderness to persecute the woman's
seed; 17:3,8 describes a beast from the wilderness, full of the blood
of the saints. Thus the beast of Rev.17 is also to be read in a la tter
The persecuted believers
overcome the persecution by " the word of their testimony; and they
loved not their lives unto the death" (12:11). Only by preaching
and being fully prepared to give our lives for doing so during this period
will we truly overcome and survive. In passing, the emphasis on the preaching
that will take place by the persecuted saints at this time means that
those being persecuted cannot just refer to natural Israel. Because the
true believers have the attitude of loving not their lives unto death,
their guardian Angels are told " Therefore rejoice, ye Heavens, and
ye (Angels) that dwell in them" . But by the same token, " Woe
to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil (dragon-
v.7) is come down...when the dragon (devil) saw that he was cast unto
the earth, he persecuted the woman" (12:12,13). This equates the
believers with those dwelling on the earth ('land'- of Israel?)
and sea (of nations world-wide). Perhaps these two groups in earth and
sea have a link with the two witnesses of Rev.11, i.e. persecuted Jews
and Gentiles respectively. Other similarities are:
They finished their testimony" (cp.6:9)
The word of their testimony"
" the beast that ascendethout of the bottomless pit
shall make war against them...
The dragon went to make war with the remnant of her seed"
They loved not their lives unto the death"
final furious persecution at the end of the tribulation
The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he
knoweth that he hath but a short time" .
Again, the three and
a half year period (v.5 " forty and two months" ) of blaspheming
and making war with the saints is mentioned, and again they are overcome,
due to the beast having power " over all kindreds, and tongues and
nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him" (13:7,8).
The method of persecution will be by leading into captivity and killing
with the sword (13:10)- ecclesias herded into cattle trucks and hauled
away to mini prison camps, sharing the sufferings of natural Israel?
Once again, the account of the beast here is underpinned with hints of
out Lord's sufferings (13:10=Mt.26:52; he that leadeth into captivity
recalls Jesus being led away by Judas and the soldiers; 13:7 cp. the disciples
being 'overcome' in Gethsemane). The beast acquires a puppet beast (or
" publicity agent" in the words of another brother) who does
" great wonders" (miracles) which deceive many (13:13,14; 19:20).
These miracles must be impressive, seeing that they result in all
that dwell on the earth, except the faithful, receiving the mark, of the
beast. It is hard to make this prophecy of such impressive false miracles
have a significant fulfilment in the past. Miracles of the credibility
described here have not been seen since the first century. Again, remember
that the Olivet prophecy describes false miracles being done in the last
days, which almost convince the very elect. They must therefore really
be something very impressive.
The beast system will
insist that all people receive the mark in their foreheads (Rev. 13:15,16;
14:11). This was an allusion to the way slaves were branded with a mark
of ownership. And so in the very last days it will intensely cost to have
the stigmata, the marks / brand, of being true servants of Jesus. It will
cost and hurt to really believe His words, that we cannot serve two masters.
1 Tim. 4:2 RV speaks of how some will depart from the faith in the last
days, having their consciences branded “as with a hot iron”. Presumably
this is to be connected with the fact that the beast system will brand
people in the last days; and it seems that some in the latter day ecclesia
will fall for this. And, interestingly enough, it seems it will not just
be the liberals who fall to this temptation: those who will thus fall
away are those who ‘forbid to marry and command to abstain from meats’
(1 Tim. 4:3).
The 144,000 who remain
faithful during the tribulation are called " they which follow the
lamb whithersoever he goeth" (14:4). This connects with the description
of the believers at the cross following Jesus always, even from the calm
days of Galilee, right through to the bitter end (Mk. 15:41)- again indicating
that our experiences then will be a co-crucifying with Christ. Let us
make maximum use of the calm Galilee days in which we are now, building
up our reserves of strength from the Lord's words.
Those who do not worship
the beast or have his mark will be killed (13:15,16; 14:11 cp. Dan. 3:6);
in this context we are told by a special announcement from Heaven "
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth" (14:13)-
as if there will be a special blessing for those who die in the tribulation.
" Them that had gotten the victory over the beast...his image...his
mark...sing the song of Moses" (15:2,3)- implying that their persecution
by the beast was like being in Egypt, and their deliverance therefore
gave rise to a new song of Moses.
The chaining of the
devil/ dragon/ serpent in 20:2 probably refers more to the binding of
the manifestation of sin in the political devil/ dragon/ beast/ serpent
of 12:7 than to abstract sin. Seeing that their will still be nations
in the Millennium, it may even be that the beast revives in a similar
political form to which it existed in our last days; i.e. a collection
of Arab nations, confederate with the forces of sin latent within all
other peoples. The beast is returned to the pit from which he emerged
(20:3). The souls of those beheaded for being witnesses to the word in
the tribulation are made rulers with Christ, and live with him (20:4).
Does this speak specifically of some special honour for the two witnesses
during the Millennium?