The War in Heaven
Before the final set of judgments start, John tells us what is happening in heaven in chapter 12, verses 1-6 say;
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
First, John says that this is a great sign in heaven so we don’t take this literally, it’s symbolic. There have been many suggestions as to the identity if the woman. Some say she represents the Virgin Mary, some say the church. Others have even said it represents themselves. But since the male child obviously represents Christ and this is symbolic not literal, the woman would represent Israel. The bible often represents Israel as a woman, In Ezekiel 16, Israel is referred to as the “Lord’s faithless bride” and her sisters are Samaria and Sodom. The dragon would be Satan. The stars that were swept down would be the angels that followed him, his minions here on earth. Satan tried to destroy Jesus by sending Him to the cross, but God was victorious as He overcame death and ascended to heaven. During the second half of the Tribulation, Israel will have to flee to a place in the desert God has prepared for protection. Some scholars believe this will be Petra, an ancient city carved into a mountainside. Jesus describes this is Matthew 24:16-18
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.
Satan will first desecrate the temple that the Jews have built. When this happens, Jews will have to flee. The trip will not be an easy one due to Jesus’ warning to women who are pregnant or nursing and to pray that it doesn’t happen in winter. John then tells us of Satan’s final defeat in heaven.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev. 12:7-9)
As of now, Satan is still allowed access to heaven, verse ten says that Satan accuses us “day and night” before God. After this battle, Satan is kicked out of heaven for good. God and the angels won’t have to listen to him trash God’s people anymore, but the earth will have to deal with him. When he comes to earth, he will take out his anger on God’s people here on earth.
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Rev. 12:13-17)
First, Satan will go after Israel. But when Israel flees to the safe place God has prepared for them, where they will stay for three and a half years, Satan will try to destroy them with a flood. The bible often uses water to symbolize large amounts of people so this flood will be a huge army which tries to attack Israel. When God destroys this army, Satan then turns on Christians. This will be a time of the greatest persecution that the world has ever known. Jews who haven’t fled to the safe place and Christians will be singled out and attacked. The world will probably be angry and jealous of Christians because the judgments haven’t affected them and will be glad to see them persecuted. To accomplish this, Satan will use a “great beast from the sea” a new world government described in chapter 13, that will rule the world during the tribulation.