– a short presentation of the meaning of Revelation chapter 12
Introduction – hatred of the Jews is a mystery
As a Bible-believing Christian, one never ceases to be amazed at the intense and often totally irrational hatred of Jews, both historically and at the present time. Why do people think as they do? What is the source of the hostile attitude towards the Hebrew people and the nation of Israel? We hope to be able to give an answer in this small booklet. There is an explanation to be had, but only by understanding what the Bible says on the subject.
Hatred against Israel in a historical perspective
The world’s view of Israel
Historically, we see how the Jews were driven out of the land God gave them, shortly after the lifetime of Jesus, ca. 2000 years ago. This was predicted several times in the Scriptures (e.g. Deut 4:27; Ezek 12:15). Dispersed throughout the world, they were subsequently banished from cities, countries and empires time and again. There are still living eyewitnesses of the persecution during the holocaust in Nazi Germany, even though many try to play it down or even deny it. In our own generation, the UN has repeatedly passed resolutions to put pressure on Israel. Often these are stopped by a USA veto in the Security Council. The nations seem to compete over who can introduce the heaviest sanctions on this little country, by many called a “rogue nation”. The EU’s supreme court in Luxemburg ruled recently that all goods imported from “occupied” areas in Israel had to be labelled as such (for consumer information). This seems strange as there are currently about 40 armed conflicts and about 150 territorial disputes in the world. Few, if any, of these countries and regimes are subjected to similar labelling. When it comes
to coverage in the media and political measures none of them come even near to being treated like Israel. The EU, USA, Russia and many other countries have tried and still try to start negotiations on ‘peace’ in the Middle East. They are unfortunately almost always to Israel’s disadvantage. The whole debate seems one-sided and characterized in general by an unwillingness to recognize Israel as a nation and support the Jewish people. One wonders why.
The Church’s view of Israel
What is perhaps more shocking is the attitude of Christians, which does not differ to any great degree from how people in the world view Hebrews. In Catholicism, the Orthodox Church and even in Protestantism, derogatory terms like “Christ’s murderers” are not uncommon. A simple Google search soon confirms that hatred of Jews is widespread in churches. This has often been rooted in Alexandrian hermeneutics which was later popularized by the Church Father Augustine in the book The City of God. Unfulfilled prophecies concerning the nation of Israel and the Jewish people were there allegorized. Instead of being taken literally, they were spiritualized and regarded as having been fulfilled by the New Testament church. We call this sometimes “replacement theology” – the church replaces Israel. This theology has unfortunately all too often helped fuel hatred of the Jews. It is therefore hugely important to differentiate between Israel, God’s earthly people, and the church, God’s heavenly people, when we study the Word of God, the Bible.
What Satan hates most of all
Satan hates prophecies more than anything else. The reason is quite simple. The prophecies reveal his future defeat and eternal abiding-place in the lake of fire (Rev 20:1-10). The devil often “believes” prophecies more than Christians do today (cf. James 2:19). About 27% of the Bible was prophetic when it was written. Many of these prophecies have already been fulfilled, mostly in the Old Testament and at Jesus’ first coming. The remaining prophecies are waiting to be fulfilled in the end times and in connection with the Lord’s second coming. The enemy knows that these prophecies are real, and his ultimate goal is to prevent their fulfillment. The Bible says we should not be outwitted by Satan. We know his intentions (2 Cor 2:11). He wants to deceive the believers (John 8:44). One effective way is by misleading us about Israel and the Jewish people. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). Only Scripture can expose his plans and intentions.
The key to understanding hatred of Jews – Revelation 12
We should not be surprised by the disproportionate hatred and contempt we see for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. A brief look in Rev 12:1-17 can explain why this hatred is so open, recurring but also increasing in our times. Here we see that antisemitism, as we know it, has a supernatural origin. This often-misunderstood passage of Scripture provides an insight into what is happening behind the scenes in the spiritual world. Events in the physical and visible world have their origins in the spiritual world. What happens in the political sphere testifies often to the supernatural conflict in the angelic and demonic sphere (cf. Dan 10:10-21; Eph 6:10-12).
The birth of Israel
The Book of Revelation 12:1-5 is a synopsis of Jesus’ life on Earth, from His birth to His ascension. We see three key figures – a woman (v1), a dragon (v3) and a son (v5). Many shy away from using the Book of Revelation, even though a special blessing is promised to those who study the book (Rev 1:3). They are often afraid of the symbolic language and believe that all attempts of interpretation will be at best subjective opinions that are worth no more than anyone else’s. Symbols must always be interpreted according to how they are used in other contexts in the Bible. First, we examine the immediate context (the chapter and book we are studying). If insufficient clues are given there, we look at more distant contexts (other Bible books), as the Bible’s 66 books constitute a whole.
Who is the pregnant woman?
Many Bible teachers think the woman described in verses 1 and 2 is a picture of the church. But it was Jesus who birthed the church, not vice versa. It cannot therefore be about the church. Just as Eve came from Adam’s side (Gen 2:21-23) so the church came from Christ’s side (John 19:32-34; cf. Eph 5:25–33). The church is not mentioned a single time in the Book of Revelation after chapter 3. However, in chapter 19, the Lord returns with the church, which is then His bride. These intervening chapters (4-18) deal with the 7-year period of tribulation that will afflict the earth’s inhabitants. It is a time when God’s wrath is poured out on the earth because of the ungodly acts of its people. According to the Bible, the church is not appointed to suffer wrath (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9). The church will therefore be “evacuated” before this happens, through the so-called “rapture” (1 Cor 15:51-52; 1 Thess 4:13-18).
A much more likely interpretation therefore is that it concerns the nation of Israel. As no clue is given in the Book of Revelation to the identity of the woman, we turn to an Old Testament book, namely Genesis. In Gen 37:9-10 we see a very striking similarity. There it talks about the sun, the moon and the eleven stars representing Joseph’s family, that is Jacob’s 12 sons who became the forefathers of the Jewish nation. The sun is Jacob, Lea is the moon (Rachel had already died by this time). The stars represent Joseph’s brothers. Joseph was the twelfth son (star), but he is telling the story to his family, so he is not in the picture. He is also the one they kneel before. We can therefore with great probability assume that the first 2 verses talk about the nation of Israel’s birth. This conclusion is confirmed also when the two following symbols are interpreted.
Who is the dragon?
The dragon in verse 3 is easier to identify, as it says in plain language that he is Satan a few verses later (v9). From the heavenly perspective, we see in verse 4 what happened in the world before and around the time of Jesus’ birth. Satan wanted from the start to prevent the fulfillment of the first Messianic prophesy, found in Genesis 3:15, which would end his control over fallen mankind (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; 1 John 5:19).
“I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He shall crush your head, and you shall strike his heel” (Gen 3:15 NKJV).
A first attempt to destroy the Messianic promise
We see already in Genesis chapter 4 a satanic preventive strike at the “Messianic seed” when Cain murders Abel. That this act was inspired by more than human envy seems to be confirmed in 1 John 3:12. At this time any son could have been the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Theologically speaking, Genesis 6:1-4 is a controversial text, and therefore widely discussed. Several interpretations have been offered. However, there is strong evidence that it refers to some “unusual event” or “illegitimate intervention”, where fallen angels (sons of God) left their proper domain to marry women (daughters of men) (cf. 1 Pet 3:19-20; Jude 1:6). This “union” produced a “mixed race” (half-angels and half-human). It is beyond the scope of this brief booklet to discuss how this was physically possible.
Suffice it to say, biblical evidence points in the direction that this “unusual event” was an attempt to destroy the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, by mixing the seed of the woman with fallen angels. This is why God sent the flood, seemingly a very drastic measure of judgement. He wanted to destroy this satanic offspring, the “giants”, and begin anew with Noah and his family. They were most probably the last people on earth uncontaminated by this demonic plot. So, the precious prophecy in Genesis 3:15 survived in the ark.
Post flood attempts to destroy the Messianic seed
When God called Abraham about four hundred years after the flood and gave him a promise that all peoples would be blessed through his offspring, Satan was given a specific target – the nation of Israel (Gen 22:18; Acts 3:25; Gal 3:8). At this point in history the “dragon” knew that the prophecy would be fulfilled through a descendent of Abraham and Isaac, his son according to the promise (Gen 17:15-27). Now the persecution begins.
Pharaoh in Egypt
A first attempt in the post flood world is seen when Pharaoh orders the death of all baby boys. Moses is rescued, however (Exod 1-2). From a worldly perspective, Pharaoh wanted to reduce the growth in the number of Hebrews. From a heavenly perspective, it was an attempt to thwart the prophesy in Genesis 3:15.
We see a second attempt to stop the fulfilment of this Messianic prophesy in 2 Chr 22:10-12. There queen Athaliah tries to kill all the king’s sons. Joash is miraculously saved, however, from the human slaughter. Humanly speaking, it was a normal struggle for power over the throne, but seen spiritually, it was a concrete attempt to prevent Genesis 3:15 from being fulfilled.
Haman in the Persian Empire
We read about a third attempt in Esther’s book. Haman tried to eradicate all Jewish people living within the Persian Empire (Esther 3). Once again God intervened. This time through queen Esther. Seen naturally, it was Haman’s anger over Mordecai’s refusal to pay him homage that caused the attempt to eradicate the Jews. Mordecai was of Jewish ancestry and Haman wanted to see his entire people obliterated. Seen from a supernatural perspective, it was the Prince of Darkness who wanted to destroy “Abraham’s seed”, from which the prophetically promised Savior in Genesis 3:15 would come.
Herod in Jerusalem
Finally, we see the perhaps most famous example, Herod’s infanticide (Matt 2:16-18). Here Jesus, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, was saved from Herod’s soldiers by the family temporarily fleeing to Egypt. From a human perspective, Herod felt that his authority was threatened. From an angelic perspective, it was an all-out attempt to snuff out the messianic line.
Attempts to kill Jesus
We see even examples in the gospels of how Satan later tried to kill the Lord before He finished the work on the cross (cf. Matt 4:6; Luke 4:29, 22:39-49). All this had a satanic origin. The devil wanted to prevent Jesus from redeeming mankind.
It is finished
When Jesus’ proclaimed “it is finished” in John 19:30, the possibility of thwarting the fulfillment of the Messianic promise in Genesis 3:15 was gone. His focus on destroying the nation of Israel remains however, though for a slightly different reason. More about that later. We have namely another person to identify in this passage.
Who is the son?
In verse 5 it is established that the son has been born. Two things are said about him that help us identify who he is. First, it says that he shall “rule all nations with an iron scepter”. This is clearly a description of Jesus who will rule the world from David’s throne for 1000 years. This future Messianic rule is described in detail in Psalm 2, and especially in verse 9 (cf. Isa 9:1-7). It says also that this child was snatched up to God’s throne. This refers to Jesus’ ascension which is described in Acts 1:9.
The son is in other words easy to identify. The point of this passage is that Satan has carefully watched over the Messianic dynasty throughout the Old Testament. Israel was the nation in which the Messiah would be born. The dragon has therefore done everything in his power to crush Abraham’s seed and prevent the Jewish people and all mankind from getting its Messiah (cf. Gen 22:18). What is the next step in the devil’s plan?
Israel in the Tribulation
Satan’s target is still Abraham’s physical descendants, the nation of Israel. Now that the prophesy in Genesis 3:15 has already been fulfilled, there remain other prophecies that worry him. There are two in particular that pose a threat to his future position, power and existence. Both are found in the Book of Revelation, chapter 20. The first has to do with Jesus’ second coming, when the millennial kingdom begins. Then Satan will be bound for 1000 years (Rev 20:2). The other has to do with his eternal abiding-place. After the devil’s release, when the 1000 years are over, there follows a short rebellion. This is immediately put down (Rev 20:7-9). There remains only the execution of the sentence passed 2000 years ago in connection with Jesus’ life on earth and the work of atonement on the cross (cf. John 12:31). Satan’s final and everlasting abiding-place is consequently the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
The enemy obviously wants to prevent this, from his point of view, horrible future from becoming a reality. The kingdom will be established when Israel receives its Messiah (Matt 23:39). God’s instrument for carrying this out is the Jewish nation. So, Israel is still Satan’s primary hate object. If he can wipe out the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, it means that these, from his perspective, awful prophecies cannot be fulfilled.
Verses 6-18 take place in the Tribulation
Between verses 5 and 6 in the Book of Revelation 12, we have a time interval of at least 2000 years, or however long the church age will last. Verses 6-18 describe the second half of the Tribulation. So, this period lasts 3,5 years, or 1260 days (42 “prophetic months” with 30 days in each month). This period is described in detail in Matt 24:15-28. The antichrist will sit down in the temple in Jerusalem and demand worship (Matt 24:15; 2 Thess 2:4; cf. Dan 11:31). When the Jews realize that they have been betrayed, they will be forced to flee from Satan’s wrath. A persecution then breaks out which will be unparalleled in history. As previously stated, this period lasts 3,5 years, the second half of the seven-year long Tribulation, which is also called Jacob’s Trouble (Jer 30:7).
Why does the woman flee?
In verses 7-12 there is an insight into Satan’s fall, when probably one third of the angels fell (cf. Isa 14:12-17; Ezek 28:13-19; Rev 12:4). Until now, the Prince of Darkness had access to heaven, where the throne of God stands. He had until this moment acted as accuser of the believers and accused them day and night (v10; cf. Job 1:6). Now he no longer has access to heaven and is cast down to the earth. Heaven rejoices, but the earth’s inhabitants are warned that “he is filled with fury” (v12). He knows that it is now only 3,5 years till his imprisonment. A thousand years “goes quickly” and after that awaits the lake of fire. He is now fully aware that the only possibility of preventing this is by eradicating the Jews, the Hebrew people, so that the kingdom cannot be established. So, the woman (Israel) flees from this desperate wrath.
What happens during the Tribulation’s second half?
In verses 13 to 16, we see his violent attempts to eradicate Israel. It happens in two steps. First, he attacks the woman who had given birth to the child, i.e. the nation of Israel from which the Messiah came (v13). God prepares a place of refuge in the desert (v14). The eagle’s wings have nothing to do with airplanes, though it could of course be interpreted so. It is rather a reference to God’s supernatural protection (cf. Ex 19:4; Deut 32:11-12). Many Bible teachers believe that this sanctuary for the Jewish people is the city of Petra in present-day Jordan. This is highly likely but cannot be established with any certainty. Now that Israel is safe, the devil takes drastic measures.
In verses 15-16, we read about the next step in the plan to eradicate the Jews. In verse 15, we see a supernatural attempt to kill the people, possibly by some kind of flood. In the same way, we see a supernatural intervention from God in verse 16 by the earth “opening its mouth and swallowing the river”. It is useless to speculate about how this will happen. We know what we need to know for now.
When Satan then realizes in verses 17 and 18 that he has failed in his attempts to eradicate Israel, he turns against all the other believers at this time, those who became believers in the truth during the Tribulation and who share the believing Jewish remnant’s faith and convictions. In other words, this is a last fit of rage directed towards all who stand on God’s side. The Greek word for “rage” is orgizó from orge and means “a permanent or fixed anger”. A wrath that knows no boundaries. So, his desperation is great. But he will fail in his attempts to eradicate the Jews. Israel’s future is therefore bright.
Israel after the Tribulation
We shall not go deeper into this, as it is not included in the text that is the focus for this study. But we shall definitely say a few things. Israel’s future is namely very bright, and it will be blessed in many ways.
All of Israel will be saved
After the horrors of the Tribulation, the whole of Israel (the remnant protected by God during this period) will be saved (Rom 11:26). They will look on Him, the one they have pierced (Zech 12:10; cf. John 19:37). This is an obvious reference to His crucifixion. As a nation, after their repentance, they will experience the blessings of the new covenant and be indwelt by the Spirit of God (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:26-28).
The times of the Gentiles, described in Luke 21:24, will soon be over. This period began with the Babylonian captivity and will end with the Lord’s second coming, a timespan of roughly 2600 years. The times of the Gentiles could have ended already when Jesus came for the first time. The kingdom was then offered to the nation on a silver platter (Matt 3:2; 4:17). However, because of their unbelief, the nation rejected their king (Matt 12:22-32; John 1:11).
What did not happen at the Lord’s first coming will happen at His second coming. God’s kingdom program has not been cancelled, only postponed, since He cannot lie or change (Mal 3:6; Rom 11:29; Tit 1:2). When Jesus returns the second time, Israel will be ready to receive Him (Matt 23:37-39). The promised kingdom is contingent on the Jews’ acceptance of their Messiah.
When they do accept Him, things will change drastically. Israel will be established in their own land, and their neighbors will no longer threaten them (Amos 9:15; Ezek 34:28). A quite inconceivable notion bearing in mind the present situation in the Middle East. In fact, their former enemies will come bowing to them (Isa 60:14). The Lord shall make them the head and not the tail (Deut 28:13). They shall never again be put to shame (Joel 2:27).
A blessing to all nations
All nations will have a share in Israel’s blessings as predicted in Gen 22:18 (cf. Zech 14:16). Authority emanates then from Jerusalem, where Christ rules from David’s throne (Isa 9:7; Luke 1:32-33). This is how the prophet Zechariah describes the Millennium and the role of the Jews:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech 8:23 NKJV).
Satan’s ultimate defeat
During the millennial kingdom, Satan’s failure will be obvious and he is now bound for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3). He awaits his final destination – the lake of fire (Rev 20:10). The two prophesies he feared the most have now been fulfilled. Then antisemitism and hatred of Jews will be but a memory. He who was the root and inspiration of it will have been neutralized for all eternity – Hallelujah!
How do we apply this in our lives?
We have seen how hatred of the Jews is not based on anything human or worldly. It has its origins in the sphere of the fallen angels. Satan’s desperate attempts to prevent his future defeat is mentioned among other places in Genesis 3:15 and Rev 12 and is the reason for this hatred, which knows no boundaries and defies any human logic. How then should we as Bible-believing Christians relate to what we see?
Three things to think of:
- We should not be surprised
“And no wonder! For. Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14 NKJV).
Antisemitism turns up in the most unexpected places and situations. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. We should therefore not wonder at the proportions or “creativity” of hatred against Jews. It has a supernatural origin, so it does not follow human logic.
- We must have discernment
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph 5:11 NKJV)
Through what we have shared in this study of chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, we have sufficient ammunition to fire back at the enemy. We know the origin of hatred against Jews, whether it is expressed in politics, theology or anywhere else. We can with the help of God’s Word expose it when it is wrapped in humanistic or political terms, “replacement theology” or whatever it may be.
- We need to pray for Israel
Wherever the antisemitic propaganda appears, let us not be carried away by it. Pray for Israel, Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Remember that those who bless Israel shall be blessed and those who curse Israel shall be cursed (Gen 12:3; Ps 122:6). This applies to both individuals and nations. If this booklet has revealed any deficiency in our view of Israel or our personal relation to the Jewish people then we can only agree with David when he talks of his sin that the prophet Nathan had just made him aware of – “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to your lovingkindness” (Ps 51:1a NKJV).