Description
John reveals two great end-time signs in the sky which were fulfilled on 23 September 2017. These point to the coming fall of Jerusalem when Jesus will set his feet on the Mount of Olives to rescue the Jewish refugees. John then sees war being fought in heaven, resulting in Satan and his angels being thrown down to earth.
Commentary
Following the completion of the seventh trumpet in chapter 11, the chronology is again put on 'pause'. In chapters 12 to 14 it is as though we zoom out to be given additional overview of what is going on during the Great Tribulation. The chronology continues with the seven bowls in chapters 15 and 16.

In verses 1 to 6 John describes two great signs that appear in heaven. It is important to know that 'heaven' is a translation of the Greek word 'ouranos' which can mean either 'sky' or 'heaven'. In this chapter it is clear from John's description of the sun, moon and stars that these signs appear in the 'sky' rather than in 'heaven'. Jesus included 'great signs from heaven' in his list of pre-tribulation signs in Luke 21:11. They are pre-tribulation signs that point to events at the beginning of the Great Tribulation.


Sign 1 - The Pregnant Woman (v1-2)
Verses 1 to 2 say, "Then a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was screaming in labor pains, struggling to give birth". This is a sign that was fulfilled in the sky on 23 September 2017, as illustrated below:
Stacks Image 4523
Let me first describe the cosmic fulfilment of this sign, and then consider its meaning. The woman in the sign is the constellation of Virgo. On 23 September 2017, the sun was near her head, and the new moon was at her feet. Her crown of twelve stars consisted of the 9 stars from the constellation Leo plus the 3 planets, Venus, Mars and Mercury. The planet Jupiter, representing her baby, exited between her legs having spent the previous 9 months moving back and forth within her womb area. Such an alignment of Virgo, Leo, the sun and the moon happens every year. But together with the 3 planets to complete her crown and Jupiter to represent her baby makes this a unique fulfilment that has not happened before in the last two thousand years.

But what does it mean? My understanding is that the woman represents Israel or Jerusalem. Verse 5 tells us clearly that her male child represents Jesus. However, for reasons that I will explain, I do not believe that this sign is primarily about Jesus' literal birth 2,000 years ago. In Micah 4:9-11 and 5:3, Jerusalem is likened to a woman screaming in the agonies of labour when she falls to the Antichrist in the end times. Micah 4:10 says, "Twist and strain, Daughter Zion, as if you were in labor! For you will leave the city and live in the open field. You will go to Babylon, but there you will be rescued. There the Lord will deliver you from the power of your enemies". A woman is delivered from the agonies of labour by the arrival of her baby. Similarly, Jerusalem will be delivered from the agonies of invasion by the arrival of Jesus as her Messiah. So this sign points to the fall of Jerusalem and the arrival of Messiah. It also points to the time when the people of Jerusalem must leave the city and live in exile in 'Babylon'. According to Zechariah 14, when Jerusalem falls to the Antichrist, the Lord (Jesus the Messiah) will set his feet on the Mount of Olives. He will split the mountain and create an escape route by which the Jewish refugees can flee. This escape is also described here in Revelation 12:6, "…and she fled into the wilderness where a place had been prepared for her by God, so she could be taken care of for 1,260 days". At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will rescue the Jews from their place of refuge in 'Babylon' in accordance with Micah 2:12-13, 4:10 and Isaiah 63:1-6. The 'birth and labour' metaphor is also used in relation to Messiah's coming in Isaiah 26:17-21, and precedes the revelation of Leviathan, the beast out of the sea, in Isaiah 27:1. Isaiah 66:7-13 also portrays Israel's restoration as a kind of national rebirth. In Matthew 24:8, Jesus describes the first pre-tribulation signs as 'the beginning of birth pains'. The beginning of birth pains are known today as Braxton-Hicks contractions. Some women experience these 'practice contractions' in the second half of pregnancy. Jesus describes them as such because they point to the coming fall of Jerusalem which is like Israel in full-blown labour (Micah 4:9-10).


Sign 2 - The Dragon (v3-4)
Verses 3 to 4 say, "Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon that had seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadem crowns. Now the dragon’s tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born".

Arguably verse 3 of this second sign was at least partially fulfilled at the same time as the first sign, as illustrated in the picture below.
Stacks Image 4529
In front of Virgo are the constellations of Serpens and Ophiuchus. Ophiuchus is depicted as wrestling with Serpens the serpent. The serpent has only a single head, which is not an exact fit with verse 3, but the head section of Serpens is composed of seven stars. Above its head is the constellation Corona Boreallis which is also composed of seven stars and forms the serpent's crown. Ophiuchus wrestling with Serpens arguably depicts the Archangel Michael fighting Satan, as described in verses 7 to 9.

Because the constellations are fixed, Ophiuchus always wrestles with Serpens in front of Virgo. But during the 9 month 'gestation period' leading up to 23 September 2017 when Jupiter was moving back and forth within the womb of Virgo, the planet Saturn moved back and forth at the base of Ophiuchus. In Roman mythology, Saturn was equated with the Greek Cronus. According to Greek mythology, Cronus made a habit of devouring his newborn children because he feared a prophecy that one of his children would one day overthrow him. In this sign, it is as though Saturn was waiting to devour Jupiter as soon as it was born from Virgo's womb. What this points to is Satan's hope to destroy Jesus when he first appears on the Mount of Olives. For Satan also fears the prophecy that the woman's seed will one day crush his head (Genesis 3:15).

Verses 5 to 6 say, "So the woman gave birth to a son, a male child, who is going to rule over all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was suddenly caught up to God and to his throne, and she fled into the wilderness where a place had been prepared for her by God, so she could be taken care of for 1,260 days". Verse 5a confirms that the male child is Jesus, who will rule the nations with an iron rod in accordance with Psalm 2:9. Verse 5b is surprising. It implies that after a brief appearance on the Mount of Olives to provide an escape route for the Jewish refugees, Jesus will be caught back up to heaven again. The timing of this event clearly relates to the beginning of the Great Tribulation when Jerusalem is in labour and falls, and when her refugees escape to the wilderness to be taken care of for the next 1,260 days.

These two great signs created considerable excitement among prophecy scholars in 2017. Scott Clarke is one such scholar who posted several YouTube videos on the subject. However, my understanding of the meaning of these signs is quite different to that of Scott Clarke. Scott Clarke argues that the male child represents the Church as the Body of Christ. Consequently, he interprets them as pointing to the rapture of the Church. The word 'caught up' in verse 5 is the Greek word 'harpazo' which is also the word used for the believers being caught up at the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. He also points out that the New Moon on 23 September 2017 was the biblical marker for the Feast of Trumpets that year. 1 Corinthians 15:52 tells us that the rapture will occur 'at the last trumpet'. I understand the last trumpet to be the seventh trumpet of Revelation, but Scott Clarke equates it with the Feast of Trumpets. Although I concede that his understanding of 'the last trumpet' could possibly be correct, I am convinced that a pre-tribulation rapture is contrary to the bible's teaching. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul says clearly "Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction". According to the next verse, the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) is revealed by him exalting himself over every object of worship and by him taking his seat in God's temple and displaying himself as God. When that happens, the Tribulation has already begun, so a pre-tribulation rapture directly contradicts what Paul says.

As stated above, the fulfilment of these two great signs in the heavens also fulfils what Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:11. In the context of pre-tribulation signs, he prophesied that there would be 'great signs from heaven'. So I understand these signs to confirm that we are in the end-time generation, and that Antichrist's invasion of Jerusalem will come soon.

The following video which I found on YouTube gives a five minute overview of the first sign:
Literal birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago
I have been greatly blessed by watching the Bethlehem Star DVD produced by Stephen McEveety and presented by Rick Larson. Using modern astronomy software, Larson examines the astronomical record for 3 and 2 BC and explains what the wise men probably saw as they were guided by the stars to the birthplace of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). You can read my review of his findings along with some additional insights of my own by clicking here. It becomes apparent that the signs in the heavens which accompanied Christ's literal birth set a precedent which helps us to interpret Revelation 12:1-6 in relation to end-time events. For example, it is especially interesting to see the roles that the planets Jupiter and Venus played in the cosmic nativity play. However, lacking an end-time perspective, Larson interprets Revelation 12:1-6 as a metaphorical depiction of Christ's literal birth. As such, he understands the virgin to represent Mary, the male child to be Jesus, and the dragon to be King Herod (as Satan's human agent). Although such an interpretation seems very reasonable, verses 5 and 6 are problematic. While the woman fleeing into the desert to escape the dragon may seem to depict Mary's flight to Egypt, verse 5 describes her baby first being caught up to heaven. In reality, Mary took Jesus with her in her flight to Egypt. You might then try to argue that verse 5 somehow depicts Christ's ascension. But his ascension was not to escape the wrath of the dragon - rather it was a victorious return to his throne at the Father's right hand so that the Father might then send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7, Ephesians 4:8)

War In Heaven against Michael and his Angels (v7-12)
Verses 7 to 9 say, "Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels. 9 So that huge dragon – the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world – was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him". As already stated, this struggle between Michael and Satan is depicted in the heavenly constellations of Ophiuchus and Serpens. Ophiuchus is a Greek word meaning 'serpent-bearer'. Verse 4 tells us that the dragon (Satan) sweeps a third of the stars (angels) out of the sky (heaven) with his tail, and hurls them to earth. This is generally understood to mean that a third of the angels sinned along with Satan, whereas the remaining two-thirds of the angels remain loyal to God. So Satan and his angels are outnumbered two-to-one by Michael and his angels. As a result, Satan and all his fallen angels lose their places in heaven and are thrown down to earth.

In verses 10 to 11, a voice from heaven proclaims, "The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the ruling authority of his Christ, have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters, the one who accuses them day and night before our God, has been thrown down. 11 But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die".

Although Satan's first rebellion against God occurred way back in pre-history (Genesis 3:1-15, Isaiah 14:4-16, Ezekiel 28:11-19), scripture portrays him as still having access to heaven (Job 1:6-12). From his heavenly vantage-point Satan can resist our prayers being answered (Daniel 10:12-14), and accuses us before God (Revelation 12:10). Verse 10 implies that his expulsion from heaven at the beginning of the Great Tribulation will be associated with an unprecedented release of God's saving power upon the Church. Joel 2:28-32 also prophesies this, in context of the Holy Spirit being poured out on 'all flesh'. Consequently, the Great Tribulation will be a time for the Church to truly shine and minister in God's saving power. It is a time for the Church to give testimony, together with signs, wonders and miracles. But we will also be persecuted (also see Mark 10:30) and must resolve to be faithful, even if it costs us our lives.

Verse 12 tells us that Satan's expulsion from heaven is cause for those in heaven to rejoice. But woe is proclaimed to the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to them. He is filled with terrible anger, for he knows that he only has a little time!


War on Earth against Jews and Christians (v13-18)
Verse 13 tells us that when Satan is thrown down, he will pursue the woman who gave birth to the male child. In other words, Antichrist will pursue Israel. At that point in time, the Jewish refugees will be fleeing to their refuge as described in verse 6. Verse 14 tells us that Israel will be given the two wings of a giant eagle so she can fly out into the wilderness. This is Exodus-type language as in Exodus 19:4, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself". As such, it is likely that the giant eagle represents God, and verse 14 describes God's supernatural help to Israel as they escape. Another less-likely possibility is that the giant eagle represents America, whose national symbol is the Bald Eagle. As such, it is possible that America provides support to airlift Jewish refugees to the closest place of safety. This might be to its ally, Saudi Arabia. According to Micah 4:10 they go to 'Babylon'. Saudi Arabia is identified with Babylon in Isaiah 21, and arguably in Revelation 17-18. Verse 14b reaffirms how long Israel will have to stay in her place of safety, away from the presence of the serpent (Satan). It will be for time, times and half a time (three and a half years), equivalent to the 1,260 days already mentioned in verse 6.

Verse 15 tells us that Satan will somehow attempt to drown the refugees by flooding them with water. Zechariah 14:5 tells us they will flee through a mountain valley that Jesus creates when he divides the Mount of Olives. Is it possible that Antichrist attempts to divert the River Jordan so that it floods this valley? Whatever method Antichrist uses in this attempted genocide, verse 16 tells us the earth will come to Israel's rescue. The ground will open and swallow the river that the dragon had spewed from his mouth.

Enraged that the Jews manage to escape his attempted genocide, the dragon then goes away to make war against Christians, those who keep God's commandments and hold to the testimony about Jesus (v17). This is another reason to reject the idea that the male child being caught up in verse 5 represents the rapture of the Church. The Church is still present on Earth after the male child (Jesus) has been caught up to heaven. Daniel 7:21 also prophesies that the Antichrist will make war against the saints.

In verse 18, the dragon stands on the sand of the seashore. In doing so, Satan anticipates the arrival of the beast who will come out of the sea at the beginning of the next chapter.
Tags
Places: Israel, Jerusalem, America, Mount of Olives, Saudi Arabia
Symbols: Israel in labour, Labour pains, Israel gives birth, Birth, Woman as Israel, Jupiter as Jesus, Saturn as Satan, Dragon
Tags: End-time signs, Signs in the sky, Great Tribulation, Fall of Jerusalem, War in heaven, Satan cast out of heaven, Second coming appearance, Israel escapes to place of safety, Attempted genocide, Persecution of Christians, Martyrdom, Antichrist makes war against the saints, Archangel Michael, Holy Spirit outpouring
The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon
12 Then a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars.
2 She was pregnant and was screaming in labor pains, struggling to give birth.
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon that had seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadem crowns.
4 Now the dragon’s tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.
5 So the woman gave birth to a son, a male child, who is going to rule over all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was suddenly caught up to God and to his throne,
6 and she fled into the wilderness where a place had been prepared for her by God, so she could be taken care of for 1,260 days.

War in Heaven

7 Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
8 But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels.
9 So that huge dragon – the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world – was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,
“The salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the ruling authority of his Christ, have now come,
because the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
the one who accuses them day and night before our God,
has been thrown down.
11 But they overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
12 Therefore you heavens rejoice, and all who reside in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea
because the devil has come down to you!
He is filled with terrible anger,
for he knows that he only has a little time!”
13 Now when the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
14 But the woman was given the two wings of a giant eagle so that she could fly out into the wilderness, to the place God prepared for her, where she is taken care of – away from the presence of the serpent – for a time, times, and half a time.
15 Then the serpent spouted water like a river out of his mouth after the woman in an attempt to sweep her away by a flood,
16 but the earth came to her rescue; the ground opened up and swallowed the river that the dragon had spewed from his mouth.
17 So the dragon became enraged at the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep God’s commandments and hold to the testimony about Jesus. (12:18) And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.
(NET)