We will miss out the description of the 7 trumpets in chs.8-11, which like the 7 seals give a picture of what the Last Days hold in store up to and including the End. Instead we focus in this and the following study on these crucial, if somewhat baffling, central chapters of the book. Here the Enemy of God’s People is exposed – an evil trinity of the Dragon and the two Beasts, servants of the Dragon that we will meet ch.13.
Some of the details in this chapter are hard to tie down, and commentaries make a number of different suggestions, but don’t get so bogged down in the detail that essential truths are missed.
The main characters are not hard to identify. The woman is not so much Mary, but rather stands for the People of God. The sun, moon and stars remind us of Joseph’s dream of the family of Israel in Gen.37; and Isaiah speaks of Zion as like a pregnant in labour (Is.66). She is the Bride of Christ we will meet again in Rev.21.
The Dragon is identified for us in v.9 as the devil. His horns and crowns suggest his real, and considerable power. The son is clearly Christ, as the allusion to Psalm 2 makes clear. As Herod had sought to kill the newborn King in Matt.2, so the Dragon sought to devour the child the moment it was born, and Christ now is ascended and reigning in Heaven.
1260 days, or 42 months, or 3½ years, or “time, times and half a time “ (v.14) is language drawn from the book of Daniel, and speaks of the Last Days, a limited period of time during which the Church will be oppressed but must witness (cf. Rev.11:2,3). So v.6 speaks of the time after Christ’s ascension into heaven and before he returns, during which, as we will see, the devil will oppose us. And yet the place prepared by God in the desert speaks of his provision and protection. Like for Moses and the Israelites in the Wilderness (or Elijah in 1 Kings 17), the desert is a place of spiritual refuge where God’s presence and provision is known.
Michael appears in Dan.10,12 as the leader of the angels and the defender of God’s people. Willcock helpfully comments on this war in heaven in his BST –
The opposition of v.7 is the opposition of v.4b seen at a different depth of focus. The conflict between the two archangels, the good and the evil, is the conflict between Eve and the serpent, and between her offspring and its offspring, through the whole history of Israel until the day when the offspring should come
The devil was defeated, Revelation has already made clear, through Christ, in particular through his death. At the cross he triumphed (5:5) and there salvation was won, the Kingdom established and the devil defeated (12:10). [For the cross as Christ’s victory over the devil, see also Heb.2:14 and Col.2:15]. It’s not made explicit here, except for the reference to the blood of the Lamb in v.11, but the context of the book makes it clear that the victory has already been won at Calvary. That is the confidence we are meant to have. Satan’s furious opposition (v.12) is the fury of a defeated foe who knows his days are numbered. It’s because of Christ’s victory that we can overcome, and can hold firm to the faith even at the cost of our lives (v.11).
The dragon’s fury is now vented against the church, but again the assurance is given that God will protect and preserve his people – the gates of hell shall not prevail, noone can snatch one of his people from his hand. The times we live in are times in which our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, times when we should expect opposition and persecution (and we will think of the form that might take when we look at the Beasts next time), but we can trust God to keep us, and be sure of Christ’s victory. It is a time of both rejoicing and woe, therefore (v.12). It is not a time to surrender or compromise!