The book of Revelation is divided into three parts: Revelation 1-3, Revelation 4-9, Revelation 10-22. The first three chapters are concerned with the condition of the church at the end of the first century. Chapters 4-9 describe the Church's persecution and battle with the Imperial, Pagan Empire of Rome, and God's judgment on that enemy that wiped it out of existence. Chapters 10–22 are concerned with sufferings of the Church during the Dark Ages, and the revival and restoration of the original church in the later centuries. Let it be said at the outset that Protestant and Catholic scholars take diverse views on the meaning of Revelation chapter 12.
REVELATION 12–Dissertations on the Prophecies,Thomas Newton, P. 530
Newton said, “Verses one and two represent the church as a woman and a mother bearing g children unto Christ.” By the way the church is His bride. She is clothed with the sun, symbolizing the glorious light of the New Testament revelation. Under her feet is the moon, symbolizing the Old Testament revelation which was a shadow or reflection of the New Testament Revelation. Upon her head was a crown of twelve stars, a symbol of the church being under the light and guidance of the twelve apostles of Christ. Being with child and a bout to be delivered, she cried out travailing in pain, symbolizing the church's suffering and persecution in the early centuries of the Christian religion.
The symbolism of the church like a mother bearing children is also used by Paul in Galatians 4:19 when he said, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” The church bears children or produces Christians by members of the church bringing others to Christ. Paul had brought them to Christ once, but they had wandered so far from the truth he felt like a mother travailing again to give them birth. Paul felt like he was giving them birth in Christ a second time. The church produces children by means of those who preach and teach the gospel.
However, the words of John in Revelation 12 are much stronger and more emphatically express the pangs, struggles and torments which the church endured by the Roman Empire from the days of Nero in 60 A.D. to Constantine the Great in 300 A.D. Moreover, the same kind of sufferings began again about 500 A.D.
by the same Roman Empire under the leadership and authority of Papal Rome. The prediction of the falling away of the original church is introduced in Revelation 11. This chapter describes the sufferings of the church under Rome during the Dark Ages. As this woman is about to bear a child, a great red dragon appears, which is a well known symbol of Satan, his agents and his earthly instruments. It was not the literal Satan in person who was about to devour her child(Christians). The dragon symbolized some evil earthly power or persecuting nation about to kill her son as soon as her son was born. Her child represents the church, collectively, as a whole. Protestants believe the angel clearly identifies this beast in Revelation 17:9,10. The Holy Spirit gives the interpretation and identity of the dragon, and no one has a right to disagree with the inspired interpretation, or change the interpretation or ignore it. The Holy Spirit tells us the seven heads allude to the seven mountains upon which Rome was built and the seven forms of government that prevailed in the Roman Empire from Julius Caesar in 43 B.C. till the fall of the empire in 476 A.D.
Many commentators believe the ten horns on the dragon's head symbolized the ten nations into which Europe divided after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. The seven crowns on his head denote the imperial power vested first in the Emperors of Imperial Rome and later in the Popes of Rome. This beast fittingly symbolizes both the universal Empires of Rome--Pagan Rome and Papal Rome. It was one Empire under two phases– Rulership of the Caesars and rulership of the Popes.. However, in Revelation 12 some Bible scholars think the beast primarily symbolizes Papal Rome because this is a prediction, and Pagan Rome did not arise in the future but came to an end. Pagan Rome was already in existence when John received this vision. There are other things said in the chapter that cause some to conclude that the beast primarily represents Papal Rome. This beast had a tail so long that it drew a third of the stars out of heaven and threw them to the earth. This is only a s ymbol. No animal could cast the stars from heaven to the earth. It would destroy and burn up the earth instantly. It is suggested it refers to the absolute submission of all kings and rulers in the world to the authority of Rome, to Pagan Rome as well as religious Rome. It might symbolize the removal and persecution of the leaders, preachers and teachers of the Christian religion in the early centuries, and it resulted in the falling away of the original New Testament system of Divine worship about 500 A.D.
This fierce and destructive beast stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered with the intent to devour her child as soon as it was born. According to some commentators, the Roman Emperors kept a jealous eye on Christians from 60 A..D. to 300 A .D., and the Papal Rulers kept a jealous eye on all Christians who disagreed with Roman Catholic teachings throughout the Dark Ages. Many of this woman's children were killed by Pagan Rome from 60 A.D. to 300 A.D. . and many of her children were killed by the religious persecution of Papal Rome about 500 A.D. Only eternity will reveal how many Christians were martyred by the Imperial Roman Empire in the first three centuries, and how many faithful Christians were put to death as heretics by Papal Rome about 500 A.D. and again during the Protestant Reformation. . The apostles: James, Paul, Peter and countless other Christians lost their lives under the persecution of Pagan Rome. It all happened again when untold thousands died under enslavement of Christians in the sixth century. The Church of Rome strongly disagrees with this interpretation, but these strongly differing views have existed ever since the Protestant Reformation in 1500 All are free to make up their own minds in this land of freedom of speech and freedom of religion..
In Revelation 12 Protestant commentators think it is clear that this dragon symbolizes religious Rome, while Catholic commentators insist it refers only to Pagan Rome. The Protestants reason that the dragon refers to Pagan Rome until about 500 A. D., and then the same dragon refers to. Papal Rome from 500 to 1500 A.D. Verse 6 states this beautiful woman flees into the wilderness for 31/2 years or 1260 years, using the year for a day, as is used in the Old Testament prophecies. After the birth of the first child which was destroyed by the dragon, we are told that the dragon continued to be angry with the woman and went away to make war with the rest of her children(V. 17). This verse proves that the woman is not Israel and her child is not Jesus Christ. Her child was the first generation of Christians to exist in the world, produced by the mother-church of the Christian religion. The first man child was only a part of her family who was martyred for the sake of Christ. This shows that the woman had many children and that this man child was not a single individual. This man child included the first group of children who were martyred and went to paradise. Many think that is the meaning of the words that the man child was caught up to God and His throne. This was the first group of Christians who gave up their lives for the sake of Christ. The rest of her children who escaped death nevertheless suffered grievous persecution. In
verse 6 and 14 we are told the woman went into the wilderness for three and a half years, that is 1260 years, about the time of the Dark Ages. This is a symbol and means that God protected the church during the Dark Ages. It still existed but remained small in numbers. It was never completely destroyed. The original church existed during the Dark Ages but in a very persecuted state, just as the Old Testament church did in the days of Elijah when he caused it not to rain for 1260 days. Christ's reign on earth through His church was very limited during the Dark Ages. It was a time of great embarrassment and obscurity for the original church. However, God kept the church alive. Protestant thinkers believe this woman, the original church, started coming out of the wilderness at the time of the Protestant Reformation in 1500 A.D., and continued to come out in the 1700's, 1800's, and 1900's. The church remained in a desolate, overwhelmed and persecuted condition throughout the period of the Dark Ages. The Protestant view is that the Popes of Rome ruled the entire world during the Dark Ages. Of course, Catholic scholars reject this interpretation. The Protestant interpretation is that the Papacy still rules in Rome, but no longer reigns on earth as it did during the Dark Ages. Many believe Christ began to reign on earth again, in a real sense, about the time of the Protestant Reformation. Christ is now recognized by many of His followers as one Head of the church on earth. .