Description
John reveals two great end-time signs in the sky. I believe 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.

Two Great Signs in Heaven (v1-6)
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. 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".

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', but they represent events occurring in the heavenly realm and on Earth. 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
If we understand this sign from an astronomical perspective, the woman is surely the constellation Virgo. Virgo is one of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac that lie along the ecliptic, the path that the Sun follows throughout the year as seen from Earth. Virgo is 'clothed with the sun' in September/October and if 'the moon is under her feet' it is near the beginning of the lunar month of Tishri, or of Heshvan in the Jewish calendar.

The woman is pregnant and struggling in labor (v2). In verse 5 she gives birth to a male child who will rule over all nations with an iron rod. This is clearly Jesus, the promised Messiah as prophesied in Psalm 2:9. So at one level, this heavenly sign is a portrayal of Christ's literal birth about 2,000 years ago. In that case the woman represents Mary. The Dragon (v3) is the Devil (v9), but from a human perspective is Herod, who as Satan's agent sought to destroy Jesus as soon as he was born (Matthew 2:1-20).

Based on this vision, some scholars have sought to identify the actual historical date of Christ's birth. According to various theories, Jesus was born some time between 6 BC and 1 BC. If the woman being 'clothed with the sun' implies that the sun should be aligned with Virgo's upper body, and the moon being 'under her feet' implies that the moon should be aligned longitudinally with Virgo's feet approximately, then the best fit, astronomically, for the years 6 BC is 1 BC is September 11, 3 BC, as shown below:
Stacks Image 4556
Although it is clear from verse 5 that at one level this is a vision of Christ's literal birth, at another level I believe this vision relates to events surrounding Christ's second coming. From that perspective, the woman represents Israel and Jerusalem. 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 labor by the arrival of her baby. Similarly, Jerusalem will be delivered from the agonies of invasion by the arrival of Jesus arrives as her Messiah and sets his feet on the Mount of Olives. So this sign in Revelation 12 points back to Christ's literal birth and forward to his arrival in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Great Tribulation when the people of Jerusalem must flee the city and live in exile in 'Babylon'. According to Zechariah 14, when Jesus sets 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 labor' 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 labor (Micah 4:9-10).

According to verses 5 & 6, after the woman gives birth to her male child, he is caught up to God and his throne, while the woman flees into the wilderness. Some people have understood this to be a picture of the rapture of the Church, that as the body of Christ on earth, Jesus being caught up to God's throne is a picture of the Church being caught up to God's throne. My personal understanding is that Jesus engages in a 'special ops mission' at the beginning of the Great Tribulation when he sets his feet on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) to facilitate the escape of Jerusalem's Jews when the city falls to Antichrist. Satan will be expecting him and will attempt to destroy him as soon as he appears. But Jesus will succeed in his mission and then be caught back up to heaven and God's throne for the remainder of the Great Tribulation. His second coming in glory that will be visible to the whole world must await the end of the Great Tribulation. During the Great Tribulation, between his 'special ops mission' and his 'second coming in glory', the unbelieving world will have an awareness of Jesus being seated on the throne. Consequently, during the sixth seal judgment, we are told, "Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?" (Revelation 6:15-16). It is possible that when Jesus is caught up to heaven that the Church is caught up with him (1 Thessalonians 4:17), though my personal believe is that this rapture happens at the end of the Great Tribulation, coinciding with the seventh trumpet and last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 11:15).

Among prophecy scholars who understand Revelation 12 to be a vision of future end-time events, a recent astronomical alignment that took place on September 23, 2017 caused much speculation and interest.

According to verse 2, the woman has on her head a crown of twelve stars. In the constellations of the Zodiac, above the head of Virgo is the constellation Leo, which contains nine bright stars. To the ancients, planets were thought of as 'wandering stars'. So if three planets were also aligned temporarily with Leo, it would make a total of twelve stars above the woman's head, as per John's vision. At the same time, the Sun was aligned with Virgo's upper body (so Virgo was 'clothed with the Sun'), and the Moon was aligned with Virgo's feet. Furthermore, the planet Jupiter had been present in the region of Virgo's abdomen or womb for about 42 weeks and was then exiting towards her feet (see below):
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Some people were convinced that the Rapture was about to happen. But the day came and went with nothing obvious happening.

Other people point out that there is always a faint ring of twelve stars above Virgo's head as below:
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These twelve stars are bright enough to be visible to the naked eye if you are viewing the night sky from a dark-sky area without light pollution, as was normal for ancient observers.

This vision also brings to mind Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9-10. Joseph said, "I had another dream. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me". When Joseph told this to his father and brothers, his father rebuked him saying, "Will I, your mother, and your brothers really come and bow down to you?" In other words, Jacob interpreted the dream as a vision of Israel, the sun and moon representing Jacob and his wife, and there being twelve stars that represented his twelve sons. Eleven stars, along with the sun and moon, would bow down to Joseph's star which was the twelfth. So it is reasonable to see Virgo as a permanent astronomical picture of Israel. The twelve stars above her head are a constant, and it is the sun and moon that are the variables. In that case there is at least a partial fulfilment of Revelation 12:1-2 every autumn when the sun is in Virgo and the moon is aligned with her feet. However, if it is correct to understand Jupiter as representative of her male child, then we should expect a potential alignment matching John's vision of a pregnant woman every twelve years. Jupiter takes twelve years to rotate around the sun. Each year, as viewed from Earth, Jupiter has a period of retrograde motion, making it possible for the planet to move back-and-forth within Virgo's womb area for about nine months.

So the next alignment that might fulfil Revelation 12:1-2 is due on October 9, 2029, as shown below:
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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".

War in Heaven (v7-9)
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. But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels. 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."

If we consider the above astronomical view of Virgo but zoom out to gain a wide-angle view as below, it appears that Serpens is a representation of the Dragon, also called 'the Ancient Serpent' in verse 9. The head (Serpens Caput) is composed of seven bright stars, which seem to correspond with the seven heads of the Dragon. It is positioned near the feet of Virgo, ready to strike her new-born child, so-to-speak. Above Serpens Caput is Corona Borealis which is composed of another seven bright stars that seem to correspond with the seven diadem crowns of the Dragon. Ophiuchus, a Greek name meaning 'Serpent Bearer', seems to represent Michael the Archangel who will arise to fight against Satan in this heavenly war that marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:7 and Daniel 12:1). On October 9, 2029, the planet Mars will be aligned with Ophiuchus, possibly corresponding with this outbreak of war. Serpens Cauda seems to represent the Dragon's tail that will sweep a third of the stars (angels) out of heaven and down onto the Earth (v4). 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.
Stacks Image 4529
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". In other words, when Jerusalem is in the agonies of labor, under attack from the Antichrist and his armies, Jesus will arrive and bring deliverance. Zechariah 14:4-5 says, "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward. Then you will escape through my mountain valley, for the mountains will extend to Azal. Indeed, you will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come with all his holy ones with him." I believe that the Jews' 1,260 days in the wilderness fit in the middle of that verse. They flee to the wilderness for the 1,260 days of the Great Tribulation, and then at the end of that time Jesus comes again with all his holy ones to deliver them from the wilderness and to lead them back to Jerusalem. I believe their place of safety in the wilderness equates with the 'Bozrah' sheepfold of Micah 2:12-13, from which Jesus breaks them out and then leads them as their king. See my commentaries on Micah 2 and Zechariah 14.

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 take place soon.
A loud voice in heaven (v10-12)
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 is arguably 'Mystery Babylon' 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 labor, Labor 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)