The third cycle is made up of seven symbols or signs, which aren’t numbered, but tell us of the histories of seven key symbolic characters – the dragon, the beast, the false prophet, the 144,000, angelic announcers and the Son of Man. Again it leads up to the second coming in 14:14-20.
Opposing the Lord is Satan (the dragon) and his agents, the beast and the false prophet. On God’s side is His people – represented by the woman and the multitude. We are exhorted again to stay faithful to Christ, despite persecution from the beast and the seduction of the prostitute.
Chapter 12 opens with a woman appearing, calling to mind Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37, and the picture of Jerusalem giving birth to the Messiah in Micah 5:3; Isaiah 54:1-4 and 66:7-13. She bears light, foreshadowing the glory of the New Jerusalem. She represents initially the old covenant saints, including Mary.
In opposition the dragon appears – our enemy is not an earthly power. We struggle against demonic powers (Ephesians 6:12), of whom the boss is Satan. Verse 9 identifies the dragon as Satan. He has power and hates the people of God. He has seven heads, massively increasing his hideousness. Multiple heads means multiple manifestations over history. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky – perhaps this means a third of the angels fell to become demons.
In verse 5 the woman gave birth to a Son – Jesus. Satan attempts to destroy him immediately, just like Herod. Passing over Jesus’ earthly life, we see him after the ascension and enthronement in heaven. The Messiah is beyond the reach of Satan, who turns his attention to the woman – now including Christians. We get that same period of three and half years, mentioned in previous chapters, representing the church age.
The victory of Christ at the crucifixion and resurrection means that Satan has no more access to the heavenly places. His chief weapon now is deceit – heresies and accusations.
Verses 10-12 show us the loud voice in heaven, made up of worshippers celebrating Christ’s decisive victory:
- Satan is defeated, v.7-9
- His ability to accuse curtailed, v.10
- Salvation and the kingdom have come, v.10
- However strife continues for now, v.12.
Having failed to destroy the Christ, the dragon tries to destroy the people of God using his mouth, v.15, representing deceit. When that fails, he uses persecution, v.17f.
The church receives powerful protection.
Keep standing firm in the power of the Spirit!