XXXIII - 5(95) Excerpt
what of the night?”
"The hour has come, the hour is
striking and striking at you,
the hour and the end!" Eze. 7:6 (Moffatt)
The Woman, The Dragon,
and the Remnant of Her Seed
An individual can approach the study of the Bible from two different viewpoints. One can either let the text speak for itself, or one can read into the text traditional concepts which he has been taught, or preconceived ideas of what the text is saying from his own personal biases and prejudices. By letting the text speak to him, the Holy Spirit can open to his mind new vistas of truth each time he studies which he has not previously seen. There may remain unaswered questions which he will not be able to answer until fuller light is revealed to him. This is especially true in the study of Bible prophecy.
In the book of Revelation, there are some key chapters which cast light on our present time which need to be carefully re-studied by just letting the text speak to us. These chapters are the heart of the last section of the book - chapters 12 through 19. Since the book is a whole book, there will be a "knitting" back into the first section of similar concepts and key phrases. For example, the "forty and two months" of Revelaiton 13:5, is also to be found in 11:2. It will be our objective over the next several months to take an exegetical look at these chapters and see just what they are saying. Questions may remain unanswered, but we will be left with the facts of what is written so that as we seek to understand more fully through continued study, the groundwork will have been laid.
This chapter focuses on two visions - "wonders," significant apparitions - seen by John. One is a woman with child (v. 1-2), and the second is "a great red dragon" (v. 3). The interrelationship between these two symbols is continued to the time of "the war with the remnant of her seed." (v. 17) The "fiery red (Gr. purros) dragon" is defined "as that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan." (v. 9) The "child" is called "a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron." (v. 5) He is also "the seed" of the woman, since the "remnant" are referred to as a "seed." The woman is not defined, but the very elements of the two visions
a serpent, a seed, and a woman - bring to mind the first gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, where the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent's head. The role of the "Man child" is described further as "Michael" (v. 7), the "Christ" or Messiah (v. 10), and the "Lamb" (v. 11).
Verse 7 brings us to our first judgment call. Are we going to read into this verse, our perceptions, or are we going to let the text speak for itself? "There was war in heaven." Is the word, "heaven," to be understood the same as the word is used in verses 1 and 3? Or are we to interpret it as meaning, the dwelling place of God? If the latter, our traditional perceptions place this war prior to the creation of man. The text indicates that as a result of this "war," Satan "was cast out into the earth." This then would mean that this "earth" existed some time before the creation of man, and further that God created man and placed him where Satan was confined. If on the other hand, we read this word "heaven" as it is used of the other two visions" - the stage where the symbolic drama was being enacted - the "war in heaven" then becomes the battle of the Man-Child, the incarnate Michael with the dragon, and the resultant victory of the Cross, where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. This would harmonize with the next pronouncement John hears from the heavens - "Now is come salvation." (v. 10).
Following through on the fact that the Devil "was cast out into the earth" (v. 9), "is cast down" (v. 10), the action of the prophecy turns to activity on the earth and the sea. John hears a command - "Rejoice, ye heavens (plural), and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath." (v. 12) The use of the plural for "heavens," and the reference to the "inhabitants that dwell in them," removes the use of the term as the place of the vision, to the reality where God dwells. But why the use of terms "earth" and "sea" to refer to the inhabitants upon whom Satan manifests his wrath? He was merely "cast out into the earth." We must leave this an open question in the light of what follows - the two "beasts" of Chapter 13, one of which would "rise out of the sea" (v. 1), and the second which would come "up out of the earth" (v. 11).
The first activity of the devil, after his defeat, was to manifest his wrath against the woman "which brought forth the man child." (12:13) The "woman" flees into the "wilderness." (We meet this term again in Chapter 17, where another "woman" is pictured as being in a "wilderness" See 17:3.) The woman of Revelation 12 is in the wilderness for a given period - A thousand two hundred and threescore days" (v. 6), and "for a time, and times, and half a time" (v. 14). Why two different time descriptions for the same period? First, the designation of verse 14 is the same as Daniel 7:25, thus linking the prophecies of the two books. The language of verse 6, - 1260 days - is also the time that "the two witnesses" prophesy "clothed in sackcloth." (Rev. 11:3) This links the "two witnesses" closely with the "woman." The emphasis on the woman in the wilderness is that there she will be fed, and "nourished." Is she nourished by "the two witnesses"? The text says - "They should feed her." (12:6) The only antecedent to "they" connected with the same prophetic time element are "the two witnesses."
to the nourishment received, the "wrath" of the devil is symbolized
as casting "out of his mouth water" in such quantity so as to become
a flood to overwhelm the woman. We have read into this term, "water,"
persecution. Are we justified? John in his gospel defines "water"
differently. He quotes Jesus as saying - "He that believeth on me, as the
scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
Then John explains what this means - "This spake He of the Spirit which
they that believe on Him should receive." (John 7:38-39) If this concept
is applied to "water" in Revelation 12, does it therefore represent
the "doctrines of devils" which sought to overwhelm the true
Then we face another judgment call. The 16th verse states that "the earth (not the sea) helped the woman" opening its mouth to swallow the flood so that she might be preserved. Is this "earth" to mean the place from whence the second beast of Revelation 13 arises? To accept the term, "earth," in a prophetic sense, and to apply it to the data that follows Revelation 12 leads to some interesting observations.
The second beast of Rev. 13 speaks "to them that dwell on the earth" (v. 14). The First Angel's Message heralds the everlasting gospel first "unto them that dwell on the earth," and then "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people." (14:6) Is the objective of the "everlasting gospel" to unmask the enemy, and preserve the purity of the woman?
There is a final confrontation. It reads:
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus." (12:17)
Each of these clauses is pregnant with concept. 1) The "wrath" of the enemy continues against the "woman." 2) A new symbol is introduced, "the remnant of [the woman's] seed." And 3) This remnant "keeps" (not professes to, nor tries to keep) the commandments of God, and they "have" the testimony of Jesus Christ.
In this chapter, the word, "war" (polemos) is used twice, both times in connection with "the seed of the woman" - the Original Seed, and now the "remnant." (vs. 7, 17) The "war" concept is carried through this final section: a) The first beast of Revelation 13 makes "war with the saints." (v. 7) b) "The spirits of devils ... go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world to gather them to the war (polemos) of that great day of God Almighty." (16:14) And c) "These shall make war with the Lamb." [The verb form of "war" is used] (17:14) Those with the Lamb are "called, and chosen, and faithful."
This presents another question to be pursued in the study of the book of Revelation as introduced by verse 17. What is the relationship between the Seed of the Promise, (The "Man-Child," "Michael," "His Christ," and "the Lamb") and the "remnant seed"? Here is the data:
1) The victors of the
last of the seven churches -
2) The 144,000 "follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth." (14:4) These "have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (7:14)
3) The marriage of the Lamb "is come" because "His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (19:7-8)
The "remnant of [the woman's] seed "have the testimony of Jesus." The text does not say, "the woman has the testimony of Jesus," only "the remnant." This phrase is used in several different places in the book of Revelation. The word translated, "testimony" is marturia. In John's writings - his Gospel, Epistles, and the Revelation - he uses the word 30x, and it is translated, "record" and "witness" as well as "testimony." John also uses the verb form, martureo, 47x, and the word, martus, from which we derive our English word, "martyr," 5x.
How then are we to understand, the phrase, "testimony of Jesus" in Rev. 12:17. By eisegetical interpretation, we have read this to mean, "the Spirit of Prophecy" by making a comparison with Revelation 19:10. How is this phrase used in Revelation, apart from 12:17? Note the following verses:
"John, who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." (1:2)
... was in the isle that is called
"I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (19:10)
"I beheld the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness (marturia) of Jesus, and for the word of God." (20:4)
What deductions can be drawn? 1) The "word of God" and "the testimony of Jesus" are associated together. 2) Gabriel, "His angel" (1:1), has this testimony, as well as the (apostolic?) "brethren" of John. 3) The "remnant of her seed" also have it. Is this to be understood singularly, one person, or collectively, the group?
There is an overall picture conveyed by Revelation 12. In each period, whether in regard to "the Man-Child", or the period of the woman in the wilderness, or in the war against the "remnant," it is the "dragon" operating. This dragon or serpent is specifically called "the Devil, and Satan." In the following chapters, other symbols are used designating powers under the control and authority of the dragon doing the work which the 12th Chapter attributes to the dragon. This chapter is the outline which the following chapters detail and enlarge.
A closer look at some of the symbolisms provides meaningful insights into a correct interpretation of past history. The dragon or serpent is described as a "fiery serpent" (drakon purros), better translated as "serpent of fire." Hislop in his Two Babylons notes, that "along with the sun, as the great fire-god, and in due time,
with him, was the serpent worshipped. 'In the mythology of the primitive
world,' says Owen, 'the serpent is universally the symbol of the sun.' In
[For further study on this association between the serpent, the
sun-god, and Sunday observance, see Robert Leo Odom, Sunday in Roman
Consideration needs to be given to the designation of Jesus in the incarnation as the "Man-Child" (huios, arsen). This reads literally "a son, a male." In the Greek, there are two words used to designate man - anthrōpos, a human being - from which we derive the English word, anthropology, the study of man. The second is - aner, a male person of full age in contrast to a child, or a husband. Then there is this adjective - arsen - which emphasizes the male sex. Jesus did not come into humanity as a eunuch, bereft of the forces which drive men, but was in all points tempted even as we, yet He sinned not.
His victory over the Devil and Satan is hailed by a loud voice proclaiming - "Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ (Messiah)." (v. 10) The word, "power" is exousia, authority. With the victory of Jesus, the dominion lost by Adam is returned to the new head of humanity, the Second Adam. No longer could the Devil accuse mankind before the Throne of God, for "caught up unto God, and to His throne" (v. 5), was One who was to ever live to make intercession for us. (Heb. 7:25)
After noting the salvation and strength provided in the redemption accomplished by Michael in His warfare with the dragon, a three-fold agenda is given for victory over the dragon by each child of humanity. (v. 11)
1) "They overcame
him by the blood of the Lamb." The only provision for our sins, is the sacrifice of
2) "And by the word of their testimony." This reads in the Greek - dia ton logon tes marturias autōn - "on account of the word of the witness of them." While we cannot contribute to the salvation and strength provided in "the blood of the Lamb," we can bear witness in our lives to the power of the Word, and testify with our mouths to the Truth revealed by that Word when made flesh, "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) These are the only "works" for which reward will be given. We need to pray with Paul - "that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel," that "I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Eph. 6:19-20)
3) "They loved not their lives unto death." There is a price to pay for speaking forthrightly the truth. He who was "the Truth" (John 14:6) paid that price, and He said to all who would follow Him - "As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." (John 20:21) It is at this point, that for too many, the victory is lost. We are not willing to accept the cost imposed by truth. It may not be a physical death that we will be asked to endure. Once inflicted it is over; but professional assassination brings with it a death in life, and when confronted with this prospect men buckle. The agony of Calvary, in which Christ experienced the "second death," will never be known by the redeemed, but the death in life experienced by the Son of man when "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:11), will be the experience of those who follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth.
"When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience. They will be given such glimpses of the open gates of heaven that heart and mind will be impressed with the character that all must develop in order to realize the blessedness which is to be the reward of the pure in heart...
"One thing will certainly be understood from the study of Revelation, -- that the connection between God and His people is close and decided."
Testimonies to Ministers, p. 114