1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
A great sign—A particularly special occurrence since the Book of Revelation is given in “signs, wonders, miracles”.
Woman—Israel. The Old Testament’s prophets referred to Israel as a “woman” (Isaiah 54:5-6; Jeremiah 4:31; Micah 4:9-10), but this is designating more than just Israel, but rather the “Israel of God” or spiritual Israel—the remnant, the elect, chosen of God, including both believing Jew and Gentile. The old testament “church” gave birth to Christ (v5), and in turn, the new testament church (v17). Both the OT and NT present the people of God as His bride/His wife to whom He is betrothed.
Clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars—This identifies the woman as Israel by referencing Genesis 37:9–11, in which Joseph has a dream of the sun and moon symbolizing his father and mother, and stars representing his brothers, which bow down to him. Clothed with the sun—the righteousness of God, His light. Psalm 72:5 states that “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations”, speaking of the future rule of God’s righteous, royal son. The moon under her feet—Satan being conquered, crushed under the feet of the Ekklesia (Rom 16:20). The only light from Satan is reflected from the glory of God; he has no produces no light in and of himself. The Moon governs the night, the time of darkness. An interesting side note: The symbol of Islam is the crescent moon, and the origin of Allah is the ancient moon god of the Arabians, so if the moon in this verse symbolizes Islam, it is giving the dominant position to Christ’s body, the Ekklesia. A crown of twelve stars—royal status of Christ’s bride (Isa 28:5). We see the “woman” glorified, from God’s eternal perspective, as she will be at the end of the age.
2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
With child—Jesus: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.” (Isa 9:6)
And she cried out—The prayers of the OT saints, as Paul in Gal 4:19: “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you” Exo 3:9: “the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me.” As a woman has pain in child birth, so Israel travailed at the birth of her Messiah, Jer 31:15: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping Rachel is weeping for her children.”
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.
A great red dragon—Satan: “the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:9); Red=reckless, bloody, war (Gen 25; Nah 2; Zec 1)
Seven heads—Kings, kingdoms, worldly systems throughout the ages. Seven=spiritual perfection, fulfillment, all that God will allow. “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings.” (Rev 17:9,10) The dragon has 7 heads because he is manifested on earth through these worldly power structures throughout history.
Ten Horns—Human leader manifesting the authority of Satan. Ten=physical, earthly, physical perfection and completion; human strength, wisdom and authority; (Gen 24:10, 22, 55; 32:15; 45:23; Lev 26:26; Num 7; Jos 15:57; Rut 4:2; 1 Sam 17:17; 2 Sam 18:15; 1 Kin 7). Horn=symbol of strength, authority, resistance to authority, prideful resistance, boastfully intransigent and unbending; warring. (Lam 2:3, 17; Eze 29:21; Dan 7:8; Psa 5:4,5; Jer 48:25). The terrifying beast of Dan 7 also had ten horns, which proved to be “kings” in 7:20 and 24, 3 of whom were subdued by the “little horn” of 7:8.
Diadems—Symbol of human authority, crown; actually, a blue and white band securing a Persian turban/tiara. Satan, up until this point still in the heavenlies but fallen, is the penultimate ruler of the earthly, human realm and has fully expanded into the vacuum created by man’s willful disobedience to his Creator.
4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
Swept away a third of the stars of heaven—One third of the angels followed Satan in his rebellion. Satan, a fallen angel, is called a “star” in Isa 14:12: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!” Rev 1:20 reports that “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…”
The dragon stood before the woman…when she gave birth he might devour her child—Satan tried to kill Jesus after he was born; Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt as Herod the Great had all children under two in Bethlehem slain (Mat 2:13ff).
Verses 3-4 have also been related to the constellations Draco (the Dragon—Satan) and Virgo (the Virgin—Mary) and movements of individual stars within these constellations that may have portended the incarnation and crucifixion events during the life of Jesus.
5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
A son, a male child—Yeshua, Jesus; Isa 66:7, Zec 9:9, Mic 4:10.
Who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron—Jesus will rule the literal nations absolutely; this is language is taken from Psa 2: “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron…’”
Her child was caught up to God and to His throne—Jesus ascended to Heaven (Acts 1:11) where He sits on the throne (Heb 1:11; 12:2)
6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Fled into the wilderness—Israel was scattered throughout the entire world, the “wilderness”. Moses, Elijah, Paul and most notably, the Nation of Israel fled Egypt and Pharaoh into the wilderness, where God protected and prospered them. Spiritual Israel, the Ekklesia, was scattered from Jerusalem when the persecution started with the martyrdom of Stephen. This coincided with the conclusion of the last 7 years of Daniel’s 70 week prophecy in Dan 9:27.
A place prepared by God—in the “wilderness” of the world. When Israel left Egypt, it fled to the wilderness where God provided for them, shade by day and light by night, manna and quail. God protected his new covenant people through the persecutions by Satan via the Jews, the Roman Empire, the Roman Church and countless others through the two millennia since Christ.
One thousand two hundred and sixty days–Actually 1260 years. Based on three OT precedents, this verse is best understood as an example of the “year for a day” principle. In Numbers 14:34, the Israelites must wander for 40 years in the wilderness, one year for every day spent by the spies in Canaan. Ezekiel 4:5-6 describes the prophet being commanded to lie on his left side for 390 days, followed by his right side for 40 days, to symbolize the equivalent number of years of punishment on Israel and Judah respectively. Daniel 9:24-27 is known as the Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. The passage refers to 70 “sevens” or “septets” of years—that is, a total of 490 years. Given these passages, the 1260 should be understood as referring to years rather than days.
The question arises as to whether this 1260 is distinct from the 1260 “days” of Rev 12:14 wherein the woman likewise flees into the wilderness, the 1260 days that the two witnesses prophesy in 11:3, or the 42 months of 13:5. My belief is that all of these refer to the same 1260 year period and refer to the persecution of the “woman”, the bride/wife of God made up of both OT and NT saints, after the resurrection of Christ.
So if this is a literal 1260 year period, several questions arise:
- When did it begin, or has it not begun?
- Did it start immediately after Jesus’ resurrection?
- Did it begin with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD?
- Has it already ended?
- Do all of these refer to the same period of time, or are there more than one?
While initially it appears to have started at Jesus’ resurrection based on 12:6, it must be remembered 1) that the entire book of Revelation is written in the past tense as already accomplished and 2) if there is a single 1260 day/42 month/3.5 year period, then the verses including it must be correlated as to timing.
Here are all the biblical references to this period, starting in the Old Testament:
Dan 7:25: “He [the little horn, the Antichrist] will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law.” [Roman Emperor Justinian’s “Code” written in 533 established the Roman Church as the only orthodox religion, fully taking effect in 538 with the expulsion of the Goths from Rome and the Italian Peninsula AND the Ten Commandments were reorganized to combine Commandment 1 & 2, minimizing Commandment 2 about making and worshiping graven images; this is different than the plain reading of Exodus 20 and the Jewish and Protestant understanding of the Commands ]; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” [3.5 years/1260 days, i.e., 1260 years]. In 1798, 1260 years later, a new law was established by Napoleon casting off the Roman/Papal yoke and placing the Protestants in parity with the Roman Catholics. The Pope was carted off into captivity in France, where he died, and the Papal States were divided up and became part of Italy.
Dan 12:7: “I heard the man dressed in linen [Michael], who was above the waters of the river [peoples of the earth], as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time [1260 years]; and as soon as they [the Antichrist] finish shattering the power of the holy people [the remnant, the elect, the Israel of God], all these events [the tribulation and the resurrection] will be completed.” In verse 9 Michael tells Daniel that the words are concealed and sealed until the end time.
Jam 5:17: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth [the Israel part of the earth] for three years and six months. [the same period of testing]”
Rev 11:2-3: “Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city [the Church] for forty-two months [equal to 1260 days/3.5 years—the same period of trials]. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Rev 12:14: “But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”
Rev 13:5: “There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.”