Revelation Woman Birth
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

50. Revelation Woman Birth
Revelation 12.13-13.1a

"When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. Then from his mouth, the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony of Jesus. The dragon stood on the shore of the sea." (Revelation 12.13-13.1a)

Being Chased

Lamb of GodThere is no worse feeling than being chased especially for a woman about to give birth. One's very life seems to hang on the ability to outrun the predator. One's heart pounds and one's mind races through possible escapes to shake off the pursuer. This is how the woman giving birth in this part of John's vision must feel. The chase began in heaven as Satan is overcome by the Lamb and dispatched to the earth. Many believe that until this time, Satan still has access to God as he does in the Book of Job where he argues the case against the righteous Job. Here, his access is forever barred. He can no longer accuse people before God and therefore proceeds to turn his wicked ways elsewhere.

Serpent Spews Water

In Revelation, the serpent spews water on the seashore to drown the woman and sweep her away but the earth opens up and she can soar away on wings. When the dragon sees that he has been hurled to the earth, "he pursued the woman." The woman is given the wings of an eagle to soar away from her pursuer to the desert. The serpent tries to wash her away with a torrent of water, but the earth assists and opens up to drain away from the threat. The serpent spewing water and the pursuit of the woman are parallels to the Egyptian's chase of the people of Israel into the wilderness in the story of the Exodus. "The two wings of a great eagle" echo the assurance of God in Sinai, "I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself" in Exodus 19.4. The dragon can injure the child by injuring the mother. To injure the Church is to injure Jesus Christ. Note that the phrase, "the dragon stood on the shore of the sea" in some manuscripts is translated "I stood on the shore of the sea" as if John of Patmos is watching the action from the seashore as it unfolds.

Persecution of Christ

Saul on Damascus RoadThe words of the Risen Christ in Acts 9.4. to Saint Paul on the Damascus road are, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Paul's persecution is directed against the Church, but the Risen Christ makes it clear in this Revelation passage that the persecution of his Church is the persecution of himself.

Revelation Eagle's Wings

Eagle's WingsThe eagle's wings rescue the woman and her newborn baby from the dragon. An ancient floor tile detail shows this. The wilderness, in this case, may be translated as "desert." The woman escapes on "the two wings of a great eagle." Again and again in the Old Testament, eagle wings are the symbol of the supportive, rescuing and bearing arms of God. Deuteronomy 32.11-12 tells us that "like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone did lead him." When the church allegorized Scripture, the most important theologian of the third century, Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD), saw in "the eagle's wings" the symbol of "the two holy arms of Christ outstretched upon the Cross." Sadly, Saint Hippolytus was according to tradition dragged to his death in c235 AD by wild horses. This turns out to be a striking parallel to the story of the mythological Hippolytus, who is also dragged to death by wild horses at Athens.

Floor Tile Detail

Hippolytus in Floor TilesThe second picture in this Revelation passage is of the floods of water spewed out by the serpent's mouth. We see how the dragon of chaos is the Revelation sea dragon and therefore to connect the floods with the dragon is quite natural. Again and again in the Old Testament, tribulation and persecution are likened to an overwhelming flood. Psalm 42.7 reads, "All your waves and breakers have swept over me." The Jews have a great fear of bodies of water like the Mediterranean Sea and believe that demons live beneath the waves. Someone who drowned is believed to be killed by a demon below the waters. Because Israelis fear water so much, Phoenician sailors are employed to bring goods like wood, stone, and silver by boat to Israel. Here in Revelation we are assured that though the waves of persecution sweep over us we can be confident in the eagle's wings of the Almighty to rescue and support us.

Devil Persecutes Christians

Floods of WaterThe great eagle rescues the woman and the serpent spews water like a river. The Devil persecutes Christians and is enraged. "God's commands" may be translated as "God's commandments." God promises in Psalm 32.6 that "Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them." Psalm 124.1-4 adds, "If the Lord had not been on our side — let Israel say — if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away." "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you," says Isaiah 43.2a. This chapter in Revelation finishes with two further pictures of the Devil's persecution of Christians and their rescue. When "the serpent spewed water like a river," the earth swallows them up and so the woman is saved. This is a reminder to John of Patmos that in Asia Minor, near Colossae, rivers are routinely swallowed up in the sand only to reappear after traveling a distance underground.

Nature on Our Side

Archdeacon James FroudeNature itself is on the side of the person who is faithful to Jesus Christ. The English historian James Froude (1818-1894) writes about Exodus 19.4, "In the world, there is a moral order and in the long run it is well with the good, and ill with the wicked." John of Patmos pictures the dragon going to war with the rest of the family of the woman, that is with the rest of the Church. This tells of the coming spread of Christian persecution over the Church. As John of Patmos sees it, Satan is cast down to earth and in his last terrible convulsion is going to involve the whole family of the Church in the agony of the persecution of Christians.✞

"Revelation Woman Birth"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

^Top Page Next Previous