The story so far… A mysterious woman in the heavens gave birth to a child who was destined to rule the world—a child we soon realized was Jesus. The seven-headed dragon (also referred to as “the serpent”) was soon identified as Satan. The dragon tried to kill the child, but was prevented from doing so when the child was taken up to Heaven.
The dragon and the fallen angels who follow him were then cast down to the earth, after losing a great war in the spirit world. Satan was now on earth, no longer able to have access to the courts of Heaven where he had previously been the great accuser, and he was extremely wroth because the time that he would be allowed to cause hell on earth was very limited.
While in the heavenlies, he was pictured as a seven-headed fiery red dragon. On each head was a diadem, or crown, symbolizing that each head was a king or kingdom. In the next chapter of Revelation we are told of a dreadful beast that also has seven heads, and in chapter 17 we are told plainly that these heads represent seven kings or kingdoms. At the time of John, five of these kingdoms had already fallen—that is, they had already come and gone—one was existing in his time, and the last was yet to come (Revelation 17:10).
When we correlate this information with the book of Daniel, we can draw the conclusion that the five kingdoms denoted as “fallen” were, in chronological order, Egypt, Assyria, Neo-Babylonia, Persia, and the empire of Alexander the Great. All these had at times enslaved or conquered or been otherwise the masters of the Hebrews (later called the Jews), who were the people God chose to work through during the Old Testament era. The empire that was in power when John received this vision and wrote the book of Revelation was Rome, which had dominion over both Christians and Jews. The one that “is to come” will be the final empire of the Antichrist.
From Rome until now, no empire has had dominion over all the world. This final empire of the Antichrist, however, seems to be global. “Authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Revelation 13:7). So for one last time all or nearly all of God’s people will initially be under the dragon’s authority in the person of the Antichrist, but not necessarily under his dominion.
We also find out that the beast of Revelation 13 receives its power from the dragon (Revelation 13:2). So the seven heads of the dragon can be understood to correspond on a spiritual plane to the seven heads of the beast. And we are further told that the dragon, when he is cast down to earth, will inhabit the body of the man who will lead the final empire.
The dragon, through the Devil-possessed Antichrist, turns upon the woman and she is given wings to escape into the wilderness, where she is fed and protected for three and a half “times.” Repeatedly we are told in Revelation and elsewhere in the Bible that the period of Great Tribulation will be 1260 days. We were told this in verse 6 of chapter 12, and we are told it more cryptically in verse 14. When 1260 is divided by 3 1/2, it comes to 360, which was the length of the year in many ancient cultures. So “times” means “years.”
The story resumes…
(Starting with Revelation 12:15.) The dragon spews out a flood to try to drown the woman, but the earth opens up and swallows the flood, and the woman is saved for now. What could this flood be? We know the Devil is a liar. In fact, Jesus called him the father of lying. “There is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). So if the Devil is living up to his reputation, then this flood could well be a flood of lies and propaganda against the woman. But, as so often happens with bad publicity, it is in one ear and out the other for the jaded public, who have heard it all before. It falls to the ground and is soon forgotten.
Even in the midst of this terrible time, the woman is fed and kept safe and away from the Devil in some place called “the wilderness.” What is the wilderness? It is a place, apparently, where the Antichrist can’t get to her, where his authority doesn’t seem to extend. It could be a literal wilderness—a place away from civilization—but it is more likely symbolic of any place beyond his effective reach, such as in developing countries where the lack of technological advancements would prevent full-fledged adoption of the Antichrist’s “mark” and global credit system.
There are some others, however, who keep God’s commandments and believe in Jesus who are a little more in reach. These are those who have remained in the Antichrist’s strongholds to carry out the important job of bringing twin truths¬— salvation in Jesus and the damnation of the Antichrist and his fanatical followers—to those who still want to know where the truth lies. The Antichrist will declare such people to be subversives, outlaws, and enemies of the state because they refuse to kowtow to his devilish tyrannical rule, and he will unleash persecution against them.
But the so-called subversives will win and the Antichrist will lose. As history has shown, though Christians have been viciously persecuted time and again, they have always emerged victorious in the end, while the regimes of their persecutors have been consigned to the dustbin of history. God cares for His people, and they will come through victorious, despite a difficult three and a half years and the most monstrous of enemies.
Who is this mystery woman?
We know that she is persecuted during the Great Tribulation, so obviously she has to be alive then. And yet she was alive back in the day when Jesus was born. Therefore the woman is not one mere mortal, but something much greater.
Jesus was, in a sense, born from the body of believers. This body still lives today and will live right on through the Great Tribulation. She is a wonderful woman, clothed in sunlight and with stars in her hair. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then you are a part of this woman, the True Church, the body of believers!
And they [God’s Endtime believers] overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.
Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.--Revelation 12:11–17