Chapter 12 of The Revelation is another one of those prophecies that has more than one interpretation, both of which complement the other.  

It is a prophecy about a woman who has a baby. The most obvious interpretation would be that it is talking about the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus. Herod, the Roman ruler in Israel at the time when Jesus was born, tried to kill him, but Mary and Joseph fled with the baby to Egypt, where they hid for a few years, until Herod had died. (Matthew 2:13-15) Eventually Jesus ascended up to heaven. (Luke 24:51) All of this is consistent with what is described in the first half of the chapter. (See Revelation 12:2-6.)  

Then the chapter describes a war in heaven. It ends with Satan being cast out of heaven and thrown down to earth. (Revelation 12:7-9) Satan knows he has only a short time left to do his dirty work, so he seeks revenge on God by "persecuting the woman". (Revelation 12:12-13)  

This prophecy also mentions the period of three and a half years which has been the subject of the book up to this point. Obviously Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not on the earth today; yet we are told that this Woman will be miraculously protected from the Devil (described as a "dragon") at this time, first by being given "wings" to flee from the Tribulation, and then by the earth opening up and swallowing a "flood" that the dragon has sent to destroy her. (Revelation 12:14-16)  

Finally, the dragon becomes angry at the woman, and goes off "to make war with the remnant of her seed". (verse 17)  

What we have here (once again) are two parallel interpretations for the same prophecy. The Woman represents Mary, the mother of Jesus; but she also represents the Church, or the followers of Jesus today. Jesus said of Mary and of his natural family one day, "My mother and my brothers are these which hear the word of God and do it." (Luke 8:21)  

So, while Mary brought forth the infant Jesus, his followers spiritually give birth to Jesus in the world today, as we point people to him and to his teachings. The Devil used the relatively meagre political powers available to him at the time of Mary and Joseph, to try and stop the infant Jesus; but he will use far more universal political powers in an even more elaborate plot to try and stop the followers of Jesus during the Great Tribulation.  

But if the Woman is the Church, then who are the "remnant of her seed"? The prophecy promised that the Woman would be nourished and protected in the wilderness, at the same time that the dragon would make war with the remnant of her seed.  

This sounds much like a promise that Jesus gave concerning this same period of time. He said, "You will be betrayed… and some of you will they cause to be put to death. And you will be hated of all people for my name's sake. But not one hair of your head will perish." (Luke 21:16-18)  

Most of us would think, "Forget my hair! Save my life!" But what he was talking about is something like a boxer winning a fight, or a country winning a war. You don't do it without a little pain and a few casualties. Ultimately, protection will be ours; nothing will happen to any of us without our Commanderin- Chief knowing exactly what is happening. Everything will be completely under his control. But it does not mean that he won't make decisions during the battle that will cost some of us our lives.  

Although individual soldiers invariably die on both sides in a war, this picture of victory despite casualties makes much more sense in an army where the soldiers are immortal. Although they may put us to death, we will not perish, for we have everlasting life.  

The Bible often compared suffering for a good cause to the labour pains that a woman experiences before a baby is born. Of his own death, Jesus said, "You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come. But as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world." (John 16:20-21)  

Even if we are killed during the Great Tribulation, we know now that it will end with us being brought back to life and ruling the earth with Christ. When that happens, we will "remember no more the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world."  

The Church in the Wilderness represents God's miraculous protection and provision for three and a half years. This is similar to the servants of God being sealed on their foreheads so that they would be protected from the five month scorpion-locust plague that we mentioned in chapter 15 (see the bottom of page 121). Although God's servants are protected from such things, there will be other things that we will not be protected from at that time; and we need to be prepared to go through those troubles in order to ultimately win the prize.  

God will protect us, but if our whole reason for existing on earth during the Great Tribulation is just to hide in a cave until it is over, then we may as well die and go to heaven now. Revelation 12:11 tells how the followers of the Lamb were able to overcome the Devil during those final three and a half years: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and by not loving their lives, even unto death." Our willingness to lay down our lives is what makes us the winners, just as it was what made the Lamb a winner. And a complete refuge from all the discomforts of the real world is not going to give us a chance to make that statement of faith to a world that has lost faith in God.  

So our real purpose in being here during the final three and a half years will be the same as that of the Two Witnesses. We will be here to bear witness to the world that God is more powerful than all the forces of evil.  
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To be such a witness, at least some of us will need to come out of our safe little hideouts in the wilderness (wherever that may be), at least some of the time. We will need to experiment with ways of communicating our message quickly and effectively before seeking shelter once again. In the process, many of us will be captured and killed. We may as well recognise that now. But overall, the message is still going to go out, and with it will go the good news that, alive or dead, we will win in the end.  

*For more information related to this chapter, please check out the following video: Bro Dave Ch. #17 - The Woman in Revelation 12

Appendix, Chapter 17  

Matthew 2:13-15. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I bring you word, for Herod will seek the young child, to destroy him." When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed into Egypt. He was there until the death of Herod.  

Luke 24:51. It came to pass that, while [Jesus] blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.  

Revelation 12:1-17. There appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.  

There appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns upon his heads. His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.  

The dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born. She brought forth a man child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.  

The woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days.  

There was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. He prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceives the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  

I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives unto the death. Therefore, rejoice you heavens, and you that dwell in them.

"[But] woe to the inhabiters of the earth and sea! For the Devil is come down to you, having great wrath because he knows that he has but a short time."

When the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the face of the serpent. The serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman. The earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

The dragon was wroth with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.