This verse brings Jude 6 around full-circle. We know the demons left their first estate on earth and were cast right back to it—the earth. Now they are here, and they are desperately trying to hang on to it, fighting against us and deceiving everyone on earth (Revelation 12:9)—the primary characteristic, the very thing God warns us about at the beginning of the book: The Serpent is the most cunning of all creatures (Genesis 3:1).
John W. Ritenbaugh
What I Believe About Conspiracy Theories
The dragon of verse 3 is identified as Satan in verse 9. This identification provides the lead-in to the introduction of the end-time beast in Revelation 13:1.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)
This rebellion at the end of the Millennium is often overlooked in the joy of considering Christ's wonderful rule. Satan's influence is so powerful he can influence millions of people to follow him seemingly overnight. Having drawn away a third of the angels from God (Revelation 12:4; Isaiah 14:12-14) and overcome Adam and Eve, he has wielded almost total control over man.
His present power will be greatly magnified very shortly when he is cast down to earth to begin the Great Tribulation. He would deceive the very elect if it were possible (Matthew 24:24). It is no wonder Peter instructs us to be sober, to be vigilant, to resist Satan in faith that Christ might establish us in the end!
Holy Days: Feast of Tabernacles
Compare the language here with Daniel 10:5-21—spirit beings fighting and being cast down, even as humans fight. Only when humans fight, the loser is cast down in defeat and death. With the angelic beings, they are cast down in defeat, but there is no death.
How, then, is essence cast down? Arguments that posit spirit to be essentially insubstantial begin to become ridiculous. How does one cast down smoke, if we can think of essence in terms of smoke? Did Michael and his angels find big fans and blow the demon essence toward the earth? No, these verses give every indication that these spirit beings have substance. They are spirit, but they are substantial, tangible (that is, "capable of being perceived especially by the sense of touch"; synonyms are "palpable," "substantially real," "material").
Gabriel touched Daniel, and he was aware of feeling a hand touch him on the shoulder. Another time a hand touched him on the lips, and he was able to speak. The hand had substance.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)
The Devil will again go on the offensive against God with the same results: He is cast back down to earth. In his anger over his defeat, he will savagely persecute God's people and gather the armies of man to fight against Christ when He comes. He and his human agents will be soundly defeated, and Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Satan's Origin and Destiny
The marginal reference for subtle is "cunning." "Cunning" is almost always used in a negative sense. Someone who is cunning is skilled in ingenuity or deceit, selfishly clever, crafty. "Cunning" describes those who use their smarts, intelligence, wits to get the best of the other fellow by using whatever deceitful, underhanded means available so they "win."
In the Bible, serpents are depicted as a paradoxical combination of wisdom and evil—beautiful yet repulsive. They have a fluid grace if viewed from a safe distance, but they are to be feared because they strike from hiding places and strike without warning. A serpent symbolizes craftiness that mesmerizes its victims. The contrast with a lamb, a symbol of Jesus Christ, is stunning.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast
The nation of Israel is symbolically referred to throughout the chapter. In verse 1, Israel is described as a Woman clothed with the sun and moon and wearing a crown of stars. Tying the symbols to Joseph's dream in Genesis 37 confirms the Woman's identity. In the next verse, Israel is the Woman about to give birth.
In verses 3-4, the Child she is about to bear is the focus of the great red Dragon's—Satan's—murderous intent. Verse 5 identifies her child as the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the One born to rule all nations. In verse 6, the Woman who gave birth to Christ, Israel, flees to a place God prepared for her. That place is, I believe, where the Israelitish nations are located today.
Note that by verses 7-9, time has progressed to the end, when God throws Satan and his demons out of heaven for good. Verses 10-11 allude to the church by mentioning people overcoming the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb. At no time, however, is the Woman of the early verses of this chapter, Israel, indicated to be converted.
But where is the church located? Verse 17 provides a hint, mentioning "the remnant of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Verse 13, which follows the interlude involving the Dragon being cast to earth, clarifies the object of the prophecy up until verse 17: "Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child." The Woman who gave birth to the Messiah is specifically named. She cannot represent the church because the church did not give birth to the Messiah, but the nation of Israel did. Thus, the people of Israel are the object of the Devil's persecutions.
In verse 14, no break in the narrative occurs to indicate the Devil's focus changes. It is Israel, persecuted by Satan, who is given two wings of a great eagle to fly to her place from the face of the serpent. In the past, we have always applied verse 14 to the church, but there is nothing to indicate any change in subject has taken place! Again in verse 15, the serpent spews a flood from his mouth to destroy the nation of Israel. Likewise, the nation is helped by means of the earth swallowing the flood in verse 16.
It is not until verse 17 that the church comes directly into the picture, identified as "the rest of her [the Woman's] offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ," the Messiah born to the Woman in verse 5. Israel, the nation, does not keep the commandments of God, nor does it have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Even as the Messiah was born of the Woman and definitely kept the commandments of God, so also does the remnant of her offspring, who are now clearly distinguished from her.
Putting verse 17 together with verses 7-12, the church, the Woman's offspring, will undergo some measure of persecution within Israel before the Woman—Israel—flees in verse 15. Otherwise, why would verse 11 say they "overcame . . . by the blood of the Lamb" and "did not love their lives to the death"?
Verse 17 clearly states that the Dragon leaves the Woman who fled and heads toward some other geographical location to persecute those who keep the commandments. In other words, the Woman who fled and her offspring that keep the commandments are, at the time verse 17 occurs, at different locations.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?
One of the greatest end-time deceptions that Satan has perpetrated has been to convince people that the Israelitish countries are Christian. A direct result of this has been the impulse in Israelites to colonize partly in order to spread, and thus share, its gospel with those who are considered by them as heathen. In so doing, she has spread the wine of her idolatrous religious influence worldwide. But all it has succeeded in doing is to give Christianity a bad name, and at the same time, to spread lies about the true God and the purpose that He is working out.
The Dutch were the first of the modern Israelitish nations to carry the Babylonish/Roman brand of Christianity to other nations that they colonized, seeking raw materials and markets for their manufactured goods. They in turn were followed on the world stage by the French and then the British. In our day, it is Americans who are doing the bulk of the influencing. They have all prepared the way for the end-time revival of the Great Whore.
Most Americans believe that the Founding Fathers of this Republic were Christian men. They indeed, for the most part, were men of considerable education, wealth, and high moral character who had a wonderful vision of what a nation should be and how it should be governed. Their morality was largely in agreement with biblical morality. Undoubtedly they were religious men, but true Christians they were not, even though they and others would identify them as being Christians.
But neither were they secularists. Secularists are people who believe in no God, or even if they believe there is a God, that God has no direct influence in their lives. Most of these men were what we would call today "deists," who believed that God exists and that He created all things, but they did not truly believe God as a Christian does. They did not believe that He is actively involved, participating in, and governing His creation. They did not believe that this great God is moving history and time toward a pre-determined end. They essentially believed that God created, stepped aside, and is merely watching what is going on. There was to them no real purpose being actively worked out by the Creator, except that He is "saving" men, and thus they were not subject to Him in their understanding and loving cooperation with Him.
America's Constitutional foundation, which places the greatest burden of government on individual responsibility, as good as it is—and I personally believe it is better than any other nation's that has ever existed, with the exception of ancient Israel at Mount Sinai—is still nonetheless flawed by the Protestant Reformation.
The Protestant Reformation burst from Catholicism, and it was the same Catholic Church that all the reformers thought of as the true church gone corrupt. But the truth of the matter is that the Catholic Church was NEVER the true church, and the Protestant Reformation did not re-establish the true religion. The Catholic Church is exactly what it has always publicly called itself: the Roman Catholic (Universal) Church. It stands identified by its own words! It is not the Christian church, but the Roman Universal Church. It is a syncretistic religion, having its roots in Babylon. It is not the church of God.
The Protestant Reformation simply established more forms of the Roman Catholic Church. It established denominations of false religion masquerading as the true religion. The Reformation simply reformed the Roman Universal Church into many varieties without a Pope. They altered ceremonial requirements and modified many of the more obvious corruptions. The Israelitish people then proceeded to spread these hybrid religions all over the world in their colonization of other areas. They were better than the Roman Universal variety, but they still were not of the truth.
Now consider this: Was God involved in this? Absolutely, He was! He is the sovereign, omnipotent Ruler. He did not raise up these churches, but He permitted them to form. He could have stopped it at any time, but it was within His purpose to allow these things to occur and to build toward the end time. God governs all of His creation, and something of this magnitude could not have happened without His oversight. If He has oversight, and it happened without Him giving permission for it to occur, then He is not sovereign! Somebody put one over on Him! But nobody puts anything over on God.
One good thing that the Protestant Reformation did produce was to release many people from a great deal of religious confusion and political slavery. But today, Protestantism has lost its cutting edge. In many cases, it is nothing more than entertaining paganism. In other cases, it is a Sunday-morning fraternal organization. We are seeing its effects on the streets.
Morality has fallen in the market place, in the business area, and in the streets. America especially is being swept away in a homosexual and pornographic tsunami, as one writer recently proclaimed. All of this in turn has created a problem of massive proportions for the true church, because church members gradually begin accepting as true Satan's lie that Israel is Christian, and thus they feel a spiritual affinity with their countrymen that has no basis in fact.
Israel is not Christian and never has been! What some may feel an affinity with is a lie masquerading as the truth. Herbert Armstrong read this verse so often because he could see it. He could see the danger to God's people to think that what the people are practicing in Israel is part of the true church. It is not! Do not be deceived! It is a corruption of the Roman Universal Church, which syncretistically adapted some aspects of true Christianity into it and became a major counterfeit of the truth. But it never was the true church, not for even one second of its existence. We have got to understand that.
Israel's modern Christianity makes doctrine of little or no importance, leaving everyone free to do what is right in his own eyes. In the true church, it will produce the same tolerant non-judgmental "just do your own thing," politically correct, multicultural way of deism that we so commonly see accepted in Israelitish countries, and faith in trusting the sovereign God to govern His creation vanishes. People in the church find justification for idolatry, for Sabbath-breaking, for murder, lying, stealing, just as the so-called "Christian" nation finds justification for those things.
It was no accident that James writes in James 4:1, "From whence come wars. . . ." God's people making war? They were. Those things can creep into the church and into us individually if we allow them.
Did you ever hear of Jesus using any of those methods—murder, lying, stealing, making war, committing adultery, breaking the Sabbath—to solve His problems? He said, "I always do the will of My Father." He did not resort to those things, because they are not Christian, even though He was surrounded by people (the Jews) who ostensibly were God's people and ostensibly keeping the commandments.
The gospels say that "He trusted no man," and He kept Himself separate from them spiritually even though He was among them constantly, healing, teaching, and receiving abuse and persecution because He was peculiar to them and a threat. How did He threaten them? By making them face up to their justifications, their lies to themselves.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)
These verses give us a play-by-play of end-time events centered on the spiritual remnant. Satan, enraged that he has been cast down to earth, will seek to persecute the elect, a small group of believers under God's personal protection. Who comprises the faithful, protected remnant, and where are they protected?
In Isaiah 33:14, "the sinners in Zion" pose a question: "Who can survive the coming persecution?" God supplies the answer in verse 15—the righteous will survive it—and in verse 16, He explains where He will protect them—in a mountainous fortress where they are supplied food and drink. Verse 17 may indicate that the King, Jesus Christ, will teach them in the place of safety.
It is interesting to note that the letters to the Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia churches in Revelation 2 and 3 mention a remnant: "the rest in Thyatira" (Revelation 2:24); "a few names even in Sardis" (Revelation 3:4); and implied in the direct promise, "I also will keep you from the hour of trial" (Revelation 3:10). Laodicea, though, must go through the fire (Revelation 3:18-19).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The similarity between Revelation 13:1 and Revelation 12:3, 9, show a direct relationship between the dragon, viewed in heaven in Revelation 12, and the beast rising on earth. This relationship between these two is further confirmed in Revelation 13:4: "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast," showing that the beast on earth receives its power from the dragon.
There is another commonality: both the dragon in heaven and the beast on earth have seven heads and ten horns. But there are two differences. One is in the number of crowns—seven on the dragon, ten on the beast. The second is that the crowns on the dragon are on the heads, while the crowns on the beast are on the horns.
It is unclear what these differences mean, but they may reveal a relationship between the beast of Revelation 13 and the beast of Daniel 7. The beast in Revelation 13 is a further illustration of the fourth beast of Daniel 7, with its ten horns—the ten horns representing ten kings who will be part of the Beast and present at Christ's return.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)
Chapter 12 is another inset chapter, in which John sees another wondrous vision. Its events do not follow those in chapter 11 at all: Chapter 11 ends with the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the announcing of the return of Jesus Christ, while chapter 12 suddenly introduces a brand new vision. Rather, chapter 12 is a highly condensed history of the true church within Israel, the woman.
God begins the record all the way back in the time of Jacob. In Genesis 37:9, Joesph dreams that the sun, moon, and stars all bow to him. Revelation 12:1 borrows from that vision to help us understand that the true church has its roots in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It is, first of all, an Israelitish church, but its real roots are in heaven—where the sun, moon, and stars are. God is figuratively, symbolically pointing in the direction of the origins of the true church.
Chapter 12 unfolds a highly condensed history of that church. It takes us through the rebellion of Lucifer and Jesus Christ being born of the woman. We find the Dragon attempting and succeeding in killing the Child, who is, of course, Jesus Christ. However, He is resurrected, so no really serious damage occurs to the Child born of the woman—Israel.
In verse 6, the woman flees into a wilderness. This takes us in time sequence up through the Middle Ages—through the Inquisitions, Crusades, and tribulations of the times where the church hid in the mountains, hills, and Alpine valleys of central Europe. Then, in verses 7-12, the narrative digresses somewhat, showing us something yet to occur: a war in heaven between Satan and his demons and Michael and the angels.
At the end of the chapter, we find the church again experiencing another, far more intensive tribulation that will be not only intense but much encapsulated in time. One part of the church will be protected, and another part will undergo a great deal of persecution.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 12:9:
1 Samuel 28:11-14
1 Corinthians 10:31
1 Corinthians 15:22-25
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
2 Corinthians 4:4
2 Timothy 2:26
1 Peter 3:18-20