10. The Escape of Israel

(Revelation 12)

It is of great importance to correctly understand the message and symbolism of Revelation 12. Many different interpretations are offered for this chapter, and in most cases end up with the wrong conclusion that it is the church that is symbolised and not Israel. As a result, future expectations become confused. The first six verses of Revelation 12 read as follows:

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there 1260 days”

In the first instance, the identity of the woman must be clearly established because that is precisely where most of the incorrect views about Revelation 12 originate. She is a married woman, who is on the point of giving birth to a very important Child, because He is destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron. The prophets have already announced the birth of this very special Child.  Micah said that He would be born in Bethlehem and that He would be a Ruler in Israel (Mic. 5:2). Isaiah said:

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice from that time forward, even forever (Is. 9:6-7).

To Mary, the angel said: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:31-32). When Joseph intended to divorce Mary because she was pregnant, the angel appeared to him and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1:20).

Mary is the personification of the people of Israel, from whom the Messiah and Saviour of the world was born. In the Old Testament, Israel is often described as a woman who belongs to God. In Jeremiah 31:3-4 the Lord says about her: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel!” In Isaiah 54:5 God attaches Himself to Israel when He says: “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name.”

Can you see the absurdity of calling this woman the church? Jesus was not born from the church but the church from Him! Furthermore, in 2 Corinthians 11:2, the church is described as a betrothed virgin and not a married woman. The church belongs to the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus, and will be united with Him at His coming. He was born of the people of Israel, from the house of David and the tribe of Judah.

From another point of view the woman in Revelation 12 is also identified as Israel. She has a garland with twelve stars on her head, which depict the twelve tribes of Israel. She was clothed with the sun and the moon, referring to Jacob and Rachel as the progenitors of Israel. This symbolism is clear from a dream that Joseph had:

“Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me. So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him: What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” (Gen. 37:9-10).

Satan knows all these things, which is why he vehemently attacks Israel and tries to destroy her. Since he does not succeed in destroying her he tries to seduce her to become unfaithful to God. But his biggest campaign is against the Son of God who was born from Israel, because this Son will crush the power of Satan and be the sole ruler of the universe. That is why the dragon stood before the woman who was about to deliver a male Child, so that he could devour the Child.

The pregnancy of the woman suggests the period of Christ's birth. The dragon that draws a third of the angels with him from heaven and stands ready to destroy the child, is none other than the devil himself. On this occasion his accomplice was Herod who commanded that all male infants under two should be killed in an effort to take the life of Jesus. But the Lord Jesus came, fulfilled His task and was caught up to heaven. The period when He will rule the nations with a rod of iron will commence after His Second Coming.

Hatred of the Jews

Revelation 12 reveals a further unfolding of the age-old struggle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. For this reason the events are placed in a broad framework. It is not an isolated event confined to the middle of the tribulation period, but part of a struggle that had its origin with the rebellion of Lucifer and a third of the angels in heaven. After the Fall in Paradise a further dimension of this struggle developed when God declared enmity between the woman and the serpent, and between her seed (Christ) and the seed of the serpent (Antichrist). The first five verses of Revelation 12, in broad terms, sketch the background of this spiritual war, which is further extended and broadened later in the chapter.

Against this background it is obvious why Satan has, for thousands of years, been waging a malicious campaign of hatred against the Jews. He is now intensifying his efforts to involve all the other nations in this odious vendetta in order to harass, discredit, falsely accuse, despise and persecute Israel. However, the nations who are deceived into pursuing anti-Israel policies are not only siding with Satan, but are inviting the anger of God against themselves.

Those who support Israel will share in the blessings of the Lord. God said to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Two thousand years later Jesus was born from the descendants of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:14). It is, therefore, dangerous folly for Christians to participate in slandering and persecuting the Jews and opposing Israel. In doing so they not only reveal their ignorance and ingratitude but, more seriously still, also draw down upon themselves the curse of God against the enemies of Israel.

There are some things about the Jews and Israel that one must never lose sight of:

·      They are a people chosen by God to reveal His plan of salvation to the world. Romans 9:5 says that Christ in the flesh comes from Israel. Romans 3:2 says that the words of God were committed to them, and Romans 11 adds that, despite their rebelliousness, ‘God has not cast away His people’ but has reserved a remnant for Himself worthy to inherit His promises to Israel (Zech. 13:8-9).

·      In John 4:22 Jesus says that salvation is of the Jews.

·      Zechariah 2:8 says that Israel is the apple of God’s eye.

·      At the Second Coming the whole remnant of Israel will, according to Zechariah 12:10 and 13:9, accept Jesus as Messiah.

·      Romans 11 says that “all Israel will be saved” (v. 26) and that their acceptance by God will mean “life from the dead” (v. 15).

·      The Antichrist will also be a Jew from the Syrian/Babylonian region, but he will side with the deceived ones in Israel.

With whom are you taking a stand? With the Jew-haters and Israel-opposers who bring a curse upon themselves, or with those who pray for the peace of Jerusalem according Psalm 122:6, and who exert themselves for the spiritual awakening of this nation, thereby bringing the blessings of the Lord also over themselves? The enemies of the cross will perpetuate their campaign of hatred against Israel to the end, and that will also be one of the main factors precipitating the battle of Armageddon. They will try to obliterate Israel and also make the mistake of their lives by trying to confront her true Messiah – Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

War in heaven

In the middle of the tribulation period Satan will make another effort to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. He wants to prevent the survival of a remnant of the nation who can meet the Messiah on the Mount of Olives to be spiritually restored and established in the millennial kingdom as the head of the nations. Satan knows very well if that happens it will be at the cost of his own world empire under the leadership of the Antichrist.

            An important reason for the intensified struggle between the kingdoms of God and Satan which is described in Revelation 12, will be the outcome of a war in heaven:

“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven: Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down… Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:7-12).

Before his expulsion, Satan’s attention had been divided: first, he was accusing Israel as well as Christians at the throne of God, day and night, and claimed control over their lives because they sinned and rebelled against God. Secondly, he was engaged in deceiving the nations and damaging the creation of God. In the middle of the tribulation he and his fallen angels will be cast down from heavenly places and barred from any further access to the throne of God. After this further humiliation they will confine all their attention to events on earth. Satan will be utterly vengeful and from that moment do everything within his power to destroy God’s people and His creation by attempting to make the world uninhabitable, committing genocide against the Jews, and instigating the summary execution of all who confess allegiance to the Lord.

That will also be the time when the Antichrist will declare himself as God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, demand the forced worship of his image, rule by way of military decrees, and will not hesitate to use maximum power to subdue and eliminate his adversaries.

The flight to the wilderness

During this time a very evil plot will be devised by Satan to kill all the Jews who refuse to worship the Antichrist as God, and who have withdrawn from his satanic world order:

“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time [3½ years], from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth” (Rev. 12:13-16).

This flight of Israel to a place in the wilderness, possibly Petra in Jordan in the Negev desert, south of the Dead Sea, will take place very hurriedly. It will occur shortly after the Antichrist declared himself to be God in the temple, resulting in his rejection by many in Israel. They will then withdraw from his satanic new world order with which they were involved for the first 3½ years. When his image is placed in the temple and all people everywhere are forced to worship it, the Israeli people who reject this demand will have to flee in great haste, as the Antichrist will try to catch up with them and kill them. Jesus said:

“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved: but for the elect’s sake [Israel as the chosen people] those days will be shortened” (Mt. 24:15-22).

This is very clearly a prophecy that applies to Israel as it is aimed at protecting a remnant of this nation from annihilation by Satan and the Antichrist during the dark days of the great tribulation – that is the last 3½ years of the tribulation period. The Sabbath laws are anyway only enforced in Israel, when only a short journey of less than two kilometres may be undertaken. So, if their flight had to be on a Sabbath, the forces of the Antichrist would catch up with and kill them along the way. The Jews should pray that their journey will not be retarded by winter cold, expectant mothers or those with small babies since they would also not get away quickly enough.

The breach between the Antichrist and Israel will occur so suddenly, and his measures to stop them from getting away (much like those of Pharaoh before the Exodus) will be so rapidly instituted that there will not even be time for them to pack their clothes or to prepare provisions for the journey. They will just have to get away quickly. Up to that moment, according to John 5:43, they will have accepted the Antichrist as Messiah, but when he declares himself as God they will immediately realise that he is a false messiah. They will then have to stay out of his way, as Israel’s reaction will pose a real threat to his new world order.

By divine intervention Israel will be protected from being overtaken and annihilated by the Antichrist and his satanic forces. An earthquake may occur in which a large crevasse is formed which will swallow or stop the pursuing ground forces of the Antichrist, which could be another parallel with the destruction of Pharaoh’s forces. Another possibility is that revolts against the world government of the Antichrist will erupt in other places, thus forcing him to turn around and react to those threats. Daniel says:

“But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Dan. 11:44).

Another part of Satan’s war is also described in Revelation 12:

“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).

The Antichrist will act equally fanatical against Christians as they will also reject him and only love and worship Israel’s true Messiah, Jesus Christ. In this sense Christians are also offspring of the woman, Israel. In Romans 11:15-20 Paul says that Christians from the Gentile nations have by faith been grafted into the Olive tree (Israel) and are nourished from the same root (v. 17) and therefore intimately associated with Israel. This is the source of our love for Israel and the desire and prayer of our hearts that they will, by accepting Jesus as Messiah, also enter into the new covenant (Heb. 8:8-13).

The desecration of the temple in the middle of the tribulation period is a sign which the Lord gave to the inhabitants of Judea to hastily flee for survival to the mountains. The temple that they will build in the first half of the week, and the reintroduction of animal sacrifices (which again constitutes their rejection of the unique, once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, for their and our sins), will shortly afterwards be the cause of great disillusionment and tragedy to them. A time of great deception and falling away lies ahead for the people of Israel before, according to Daniel 9:24, their sins are brought to an end and they are brought to ‘everlasting righteousness’. They will go through a time of severe trial and testing.

Jeremiah says:

“Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7).

This time of great anxiety will be used by the Lord to bring Israel back to Himself. The Bible clearly teaches that the unbelieving Jewish nation who were restored to their land in unbelief, will only be saved after being subjected to severe afflictions and great anxiety:

“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so will I gather you in My anger and in My fury, and will leave you there and melt you… then you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out My fury on you” (Ezek. 22:19-22).

Since Israel's restoration to their land in 1948, the animosity of the unbelieving majority towards Jesus and the Messianic Jews who worship Him, has been intensified. As a result, the nation will face "the time of Jacob's trouble." In a Messianic prophecy, the Messiah says the following about Israel's future suffering:

“For I  will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah… I will tear them and go away… [the ascension of Jesus after He announced the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews]… I will return again to my place [heaven] till they acknowledge their offence. Then they [the people of Israel] will seek My face; in their affliction [in the great tribulation] they will diligently seek Me. Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days [of a thousand years each] He will revive us; on the third day [in the third millennium after His first coming] He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight” (Hos. 5:14–6:2).

It is obvious from these verses that Israel will only seek the Lord "in their affliction."

This process of suffering and testing was long ago foreseen by Moses, who prepared Israel for a time of great distress in the last days:

“When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them” (Deut. 4:30-31).

Countdown to the coming of the Messiah

The remnant of Israel will know that from the time that the abominable idol image of the beast is brought into the temple, 3½ years will elapse before the Messiah will come – that is 1260 days. Their flight into the wilderness will, therefore, be a countdown to their eventual salvation and reconciliation with the true Messiah. About this time, the prophet Daniel says:

“And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be 1290 days” (Dan. 12:11).

That is 30 days longer than 3½ years, and makes provision for the 30 days of national mourning that Israel will need when they realise that Jesus is the suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53 who, though innocent, their fathers betrayed and delivered to the Roman authorities to be crucified. According to Deuteronomy 34:8 the nation also mourned for 30 days after the death of Moses.

About the end-time mourning of Israel, Zechariah says:

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem… And the land shall mourn, every family by itself” (Zech. 12:10-12).

When Israel’s 42 months of hiding nears its end they will, just prior to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), move towards the Mount of Olives where the Messiah will, according to Zechariah 14:4-5, make His sudden appearance. When He saves them from the advancing forces of the Antichrist, they will recognise Him, accept Him as their true Messiah and mourn with deep repentance and sorrow for 30 days.

After this, another 45 days will elapse while the Messiah judges the nations, introduces His bride at the marriage feast of the Lamb, restores the throne of David, and establishes His millennial kingdom. By then, 1335 days will have elapsed since the dark day when the false messiah declared himself to be God and sole ruler of the world, until the dramatic victory of the true Messiah over Satan, the beast and his kingdom, and the establishment of His government of righteousness. About this extended period, Daniel says: “Blessed is he who waits, and comes to 1335 days (Dan. 12:12).

Jews who survive this terrible time, will live to see the true Messiah and to be reconciled with Him. They will also inherit the Messianic kingdom. To them the challenge is to persevere to the end under very difficult circumstances, in order to be saved. Daniel says:

“…and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1).

The Lord Jesus says that “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt. 10:22).

Israel’s refuge to a place of safety in the wilderness has been ordained by God to protect and preserve a remnant of the nation during the darkest hour of human history. They will be reconciled to Him to be a blessing to the whole world during the millennial reign of Christ. “He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd does his flock” (Jer. 31:10).