Revelation 12:13-17

The Persecution (Until 313)

13 When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 

Rev 12:13
he persecuted the woman – in the first part of the Chapter we saw the attack of the Red Dragon against the male Child. Now being cast down, Satan uses the Red Dragon to persecute the kingdom of heaven on earth.

14 Two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 

Rev 12:14
two wings of the great eagle – the most powerful bird, and most rapid in flight, see also Exodus 19:4, where eagle’s wings are used to describe the flight of the Israelites from Egypt. “The Great Eagle” is the Griffon Vulture-Eagle. It has a wingspan up to 3 M.. It is a “majestic bird, most abundant, and never out of sight, whether on the mountains or the plains of Palestine. Everywhere it is a feature in the sky, as it circles higher and higher, till lost to all but the keenest sight, and then rapidly swoops down again.”1

King Nebuchadnezzar, as “the beast” was given these two wings of the great eagle (Daniel 4:33) until seven times passed over him, a time, times and half a time, and then he was given the heart of a man. The saints receive same the wings of the great eagle, to fly into the wilderness for a time, times and half a time.

fly into the wilderness to her place – compare to “the place” of mystery Babylon, to which the women with wings of a stork carry the woman of sin, in Zechariah 5:9-11.

for time, times and half a time away from the presence of the serpent – the saints are now known only to God, as the evidence of the Spirit of truth has been taken away. The true believers nurture their faith “in the wilderness,” away from the corrupted Church, away from the serpent.

15 The serpent spewed water out of his mouth after the woman like a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. 

Rev 12:15
And the serpent “cast” water on her like a river out of his mouth – the NASB reads “poured” but ἔβαλεν (ebalenactually means “cast” or for a serpent, “spewed.”

swept away by the flood – Daniel said “the end of it (the sanctuary, the kingdom of heaven) shall be with a flood,” Daniel 9:26. The description “swept away by the flood” probably refers to the Great persecution, from 303 to 313. This was Satan’s greatest attempt to eliminate the kingdom of heaven through the political power of Rome.  This explains the “ten days” in Rev 2:10 as ten years; consistent with the day-year relationships that is a rule throughout Daniel and Revelation.

Let us read about the Great Persecution from an eyewitness.

In his Book: “The Church History,” Eusebius, a bishop of Emperor Constantine, described the time before the Persecution in the opening remarks of Book VIII, Chapter 1:

It is beyond our ability to describe in a suitable manner the extent and nature of the glory
and freedom with which the word of piety toward the God of the universe, proclaimed to the world through Christ, was honored among all men, both Greeks and barbarians, before the persecution in our day.

Eusebius continues:

This persecution began with the brethren in the army.

In Chapter 2 he writes:

After all these things were fulfilled in us, when we saw with our own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down to the very foundations, and the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places, and the shepherds of the churches basely hidden here and there, and some of them captured ignominiously, and mocked by their enemies..

It was in the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian, in the month Dystrus, called
March by the Romans, when the feast of the Saviour’s passion was near at hand, that royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures be destroyed by fire, and ordering that those who held places of honor be degraded, and that the household servants, if they persisted in the profession of Christianity, be deprived of freedom.

Such was the first edict against us. But not long after, other decrees were issued, commanding that all the rulers of the churches in every place be first thrown into prison, and afterwards by every artifice be compelled to sacrifice.

Then truly a great many rulers of the churches eagerly endured terrible sufferings, and
furnished examples of noble conflicts. But a multitude of others, benumbed in spirit by fear,
were easily weakened at the first onset. Of the rest each one endured different forms of torture. The body of one was scourged with rods. Another was punished with insupportable rackings andscrapings, in which some suffered a miserable death.

Eusebius goes on with great detail to describe a ten year persecution aimed at wiping out “The Woman.” The details are very gory, and the persecution intensified with time. Many denied the faith, as Eusebius details.

16 The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon spewed out of his mouth. 

Rev 12:16
But the earth helped the woman – the earth refers to the people of the world, throughout the Book of Revelation.

Eusebius described the Emperor’s repentance:

Wrestling with so many evils, he thought of the cruelties which he had committed against
the pious. Turning, therefore, his thoughts toward himself, he first openly confessed to the God of the universe, and then summoning his attendants, he commanded that without delay they should stop the persecution of the Christians, and should by law and royal decree, urge them forward to build their churches and to perform their customary worship, offering prayers in behalf of the emperor. Immediately the deed followed the word.

Book VIII Chapter 17

17 The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep God’s commandments and hold Jesus’ testimony.

Rev 12:17
then the dragon was enraged with the woman – why was the dragon enraged with the Woman?

  • when the dragon tried to kill her Child, the male Child, it only resulted in the Woman giving birth to God’s only begotten Son, through the resurrection of Christ, as described in Acts 13:33-34.
  • Satan’s attack on Christ actually put an end to the “sacrifice and offering,” required under the Law, as Daniel described. The unexpected outcome of Satan’s attack was the free gift of salvation for the world! Christ’s death paid the penalty of sin for all mankind.
  • The dragon used the power of Rome to put an end to the sanctified Church, but the Woman (the Bride of Christ) flew into the wilderness. The saints overcame Satan’s accusations “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”
  • The dragon tried to persecute the Woman (the Bride of Christ), using the power of Rome, but could not destroy her.

and went off to make war – this is the war described in Daniel 9:26, “and til the end of the war desolations are determined.” This is the war of Christ and the Antichrist, that the Book of Revelation explains.

with the rest of her children – as mentioned in verse 1, the first Child of the kingdom of heaven was the Christ, the “rest” are the saints who would follow Him.

who keep the commandments of God – the true children of God are those who keep His commandments, Matt 7:21-23;  1 Cor 7:19;  1 John 5:2-3

and have the testimony of Jesus – this is also described in Revelation 12:11, “they overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” After the spirit of truth was taken from the Church, the saints no longer had the guarantee of salvation that came through receiving the holy spirit (see Ephesians 1:13-14). However, when the sanctified Church is re-established, and the spirit of God is poured out again, “the testimony of Jesus” will be explained as “the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). The expression “spirit of prophecy” was used to describe the spirit of God on Christ in the Targum of Isaiah 61:1.

  1. Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, ed. 2, i. 815.