God’s Kingdom Is Born!
Vision 7—Revelation 12:1-17
Subject: The heavenly woman gives birth, Michael battles with Satan and casts him to earth
Time of fulfillment: From the enthronement of Christ Jesus in 1914 up to the great tribulation
1. How will an understanding of the signs described in Revelation chapters 12 to 14 help us?
THE sacred secret of God has been unlocked. (Revelation 10:7) Jehovah’s Kingdom by his Messiah is now a dynamic reality. It rules! Its presence spells doom for Satan and his seed and glorious victory for the Seed of God’s heavenly organization. The seventh angel has not finished blowing on his trumpet, however, for he has much more to reveal to us about the third woe. (Revelation 11:14) The signs described in Revelation chapters 12 to 14 will help us to broaden our appreciation of all that is involved in that woe and in bringing God’s sacred secret to a finish.
2. (a) What great sign does John see? (b) When was the meaning of the great sign revealed?
2 John now sees a great sign—one of outstanding interest for God’s people. It introduces a thrilling prophetic vision, the meaning of which was first published in the March 1, 1925, issue of The Watch Tower in an article entitled “Birth of the Nation” and then again in 1926 in the book Deliverance. This brilliant flash of Bible understanding became a historic marker in the advancement of Jehovah’s work. So let John describe the drama as it starts to unfold: “And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon was beneath her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars, and she was pregnant. And she cries out in her pains and in her agony to give birth.”—Revelation 12:1, 2.
3. What is the identity of the woman seen in heaven?
3 For the first time, John beholds a woman in heaven. She is, of course, not a literal woman. Rather, she is a sign, or a symbol. (Revelation 1:1) What does she symbolize? In the inspired prophecies, women at times represent organizations “married” to outstanding personalities. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel was spoken of as a wife of Jehovah God. (Jeremiah 3:14) In the Greek Scriptures, the congregation of anointed Christians is spoken of as Christ’s bride. (Revelation 21:9-14) The woman John here sees is also married to someone, and she is about to give birth. Who is her husband? Well, later her child is “caught away to God and to his throne.” (Revelation 12:5) Jehovah thus claims the child as his own. Therefore, the woman that John sees must be Jehovah’s symbolic wife.
4. Who are the sons of God’s symbolic wife, and what does the apostle Paul call the woman seen by John?
4 About eight centuries earlier, Jehovah had addressed this symbolic wife, saying: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah.” (Isaiah 54:5, 13) Jesus quoted this prophecy and showed that these sons were his faithful followers, who later formed the congregation of anointed Christians. (John 6:44, 45) So members of this congregation, spoken of as God’s sons, are also children of God’s symbolic wife. (Romans 8:14) The apostle Paul adds the final piece of information when he says: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:26) The “woman” seen by John, then, is “the Jerusalem above.”
5. Since Jehovah’s symbolic wife is crowned with 12 stars, what in reality is the Jerusalem above?
5 Exactly what, though, is Jerusalem above? Since Paul spoke of her as “above,” and John sees her in heaven, she is clearly not an earthly city; neither is she the same as “New Jerusalem,” since that organization is the bride of Christ, not Jehovah’s wife. (Revelation 21:2) Notice that she is crowned with 12 stars. The number 12 is associated with completeness in an organizational setting.* Hence, these 12 stars seem to indicate that she is an organizational arrangement in heaven, just as ancient Jerusalem was on earth. Jerusalem above is Jehovah’s universal organization of spirit creatures that acts as his wife, both in serving him and in producing offspring.
6. (a) What is indicated by the fact that the woman seen by John is robed with the sun, has the moon beneath her feet, and has a crown of stars? (b) What is symbolized by the labor pains of the pregnant woman?
6 John sees this woman as being robed with the sun and having the moon beneath her feet. When we add her crown of stars, she is completely surrounded by heavenly lights. God’s favor shines upon her day and night. What a fitting symbol of Jehovah’s magnificent heavenly organization! She is also pregnant, enduring labor pains. Her cries for divine help show that her time has come to give birth. In the Bible, labor pains often symbolize the hard work needed to produce an important result. (Compare Psalm 90:2; Proverbs 25:23; Isaiah 66:7, 8.) No doubt labor pains of this kind were experienced as Jehovah’s heavenly organization prepared for this historic birth.
A Great Fiery-Colored Dragon
7. What is another sign that John sees in heaven?
7 What does John next observe? “And another sign was seen in heaven, and, look! a great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and upon its heads seven diadems; and its tail drags a third of the stars of heaven, and it hurled them down to the earth. And the dragon kept standing before the woman who was about to give birth, that, when she did give birth, it might devour her child.”—Revelation 12:3, 4.
8. (a) What is the identity of the great fiery-colored dragon? (b) What is indicated by the dragon’s having seven heads, ten horns, and a diadem on each head?
8 This dragon is Satan, “the original serpent.” (Revelation 12:9; Genesis 3:15) He is a ferocious destroyer—a seven-headed dragon, or devourer, that can completely swallow his prey. How strange he looks! Those seven heads and ten horns indicate that he is the architect of the political wild beast soon to be described in Revelation chapter 13. This beast also has seven heads and ten horns. Since Satan has a diadem on each head—seven in all—we can be sure that the world powers represented in that wild beast have been under his rulership. (John 16:11) The ten horns are a fitting symbol of the completeness of the power that he has exercised in this world.
9. What is indicated by the fact that the dragon’s tail “drags a third of the stars of heaven” down to the earth?
9 The dragon has authority also in the spirit realm. With his tail, he “drags a third of the stars of heaven.” Stars can represent angels. (Job 38:7) Mention of “a third” would emphasize that a considerable number of angels have been misled by Satan. Once these came under his control, there was no escape for them. They could not return to God’s holy organization. They became demons, dragged along, as it were, by Satan their king, or ruler. (Matthew 12:24) Satan also cast them down to the earth. This no doubt refers to Noah’s day before the Flood, when Satan induced the disobedient sons of God to go down to earth and cohabit with the daughters of men. As a punishment, these “angels that sinned” have been thrown by God into the prisonlike condition called Tartarus.—Genesis 6:4; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
10. What opposing organizations come into view, and why does the dragon seek to devour the child when the woman gives birth?
10 Thus, two opposing organizations have come clearly into view—Jehovah’s heavenly organization as pictured by the woman and Satan’s demonic organization that challenges God’s sovereignty. The great issue of sovereignty must be settled. But how? Satan, still dragging the demons along with him, is like a vicious beast of prey eyeing a potential victim. He is waiting for the woman to give birth. He wants to devour this expected infant because he knows that it poses an ominous threat to his continued existence and that of the world over which he exercises rulership.—John 14:30.
A Son, a Male
11. How does John describe the birth of the woman’s child, and why is the child called “a son, a male”?
11 The appointed time for the nations to rule without interruption by God came to an end in 1914. (Luke 21:24) Then, right on time, the woman bears her child: “And she gave birth to a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was caught away to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:5, 6) The child is “a son, a male.” Why does John use this double expression? He does it to show the child’s suitableness, his competence for ruling the nations with adequate power. It also emphasizes how momentous, how joyous an occasion this birth is! It plays a key role in bringing the sacred secret of God to a finish. Why, this male child will even “shepherd all the nations with an iron rod”!
12. (a) In the Psalms, what did Jehovah prophetically promise regarding Jesus? (b) What is symbolized by the woman’s giving birth to a son “who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod”?
12 Now, does that expression sound familiar? Yes, Jehovah promised prophetically regarding Jesus: “You will break them with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel you will dash them to pieces.” (Psalm 2:9) It was also prophesied regarding him: “The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” (Psalm 110:2) Therefore, the birth seen by John closely involves Jesus Christ. No, it is not Jesus’ being born of a virgin back before the first century of our Common Era; nor could it refer to Jesus’ being raised again to spirit life in 33 C.E. Furthermore, it is no transmigration. Rather, it is the birth of God’s Kingdom in 1914 as a reality, with Jesus—now in heaven for close to 20 centuries—enthroned as King.—Revelation 12:10.
13. What is indicated by the male child’s being “caught away to God and to his throne”?
13 Never would Jehovah permit Satan to devour His wife or His newborn son! At birth, the male child is “caught away to God and to his throne.” He thus comes completely under the protection of Jehovah, who will take the fullest care of this newborn Kingdom, His instrument for sanctifying His holy name. At the same time, the woman flees to a place that God has prepared for her in the wilderness. More details on that later! As for Satan, the stage is now set for a momentous event that will make it utterly impossible for him ever again to threaten the Kingdom in heaven. What is that event?
War in Heaven!
14. (a) As John tells it, what event makes it impossible for Satan ever again to threaten the Kingdom? (b) To what locality are Satan and his demons restricted?
14 John tells us: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9) So as a dramatic development in bringing the sacred secret of God to a finish, Satan is ejected, pitched out of heaven, and his demons are cast down to the earth with him. The one who has misled the entire inhabited earth to the extent of becoming its god is finally restricted to the vicinity of this planet, where his rebellion first began.—2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
15, 16. (a) Who is Michael, and how do we know? (b) Why is it fitting that Michael is the one who hurls Satan down from heaven?
15 Who accomplish this great victory in Jehovah’s name? The Bible says it is Michael and his angels. But who is Michael? The name “Michael” means “Who Is Like God?” So Michael must be interested in vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty by proving that no one is to be compared to Him. In Jude verse 9, he is called “Michael the archangel.” Interestingly, the title “archangel” is used elsewhere in the Bible with reference to only one person: Jesus Christ.* Paul says of him: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) The title “archangel” means “chief of the angels.” So it is not surprising that Revelation speaks of “Michael and his angels.” Other places where the Bible mentions angels subject to a righteous servant of God have reference to Jesus. Thus, Paul speaks of “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels.”—2 Thessalonians 1:7; see also Matthew 24:30, 31; 25:31.
16 These and other scriptures lead us to the inescapable conclusion that Michael is no one else but the Lord Jesus Christ in his heavenly position. Now, in the Lord’s day, he no longer merely says to Satan: “May Jehovah rebuke you.” Since this is a time of judging, Jesus, as Michael, hurls the wicked Satan and his demonic angels down from heaven. (Jude 9; Revelation 1:10) It is most fitting that He should be the One to do this, as He is the newly installed King. Jesus is also the Seed, promised back in Eden, who will ultimately crush the head of the Serpent, thus putting him out of existence for all time. (Genesis 3:15) By ejecting Satan from heaven, Jesus has moved toward that final crushing.
“Be Glad, You Heavens”
17, 18. (a) What heavenly reaction does John report as to the fall of Satan from heaven? (b) What is the likely source of the loud voice that John hears?
17 John reports a joyous heavenly reaction to this stupendous fall of Satan: “And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God! And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even in the face of death. On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them!’”—Revelation 12:10-12a.
18 Whose loud voice is it that John hears? The Bible does not say. But a similar cry reported at Revelation 11:17 came from the resurrected 24 elders in their heavenly positions, where they can now represent the 144,000 holy ones. (Revelation 11:18) And since the persecuted anointed servants of God still on earth are here spoken of as “our brothers,” this statement could well come from the same source. No doubt these faithful ones can join their voice, since their resurrection would follow soon after Satan and his demon hordes had been thrown out of heaven.
19. (a) The finishing of the sacred secret of God opens the way for Jesus to do what? (b) What is indicated by Satan’s being called “the accuser of our brothers”?
19 The finishing of the sacred secret of God calls for Jesus to take authority in Jehovah’s Kingdom. The way is thus opened for God to carry out his great purpose to deliver faithful mankind. Jesus brings salvation not only to his God-fearing disciples now on earth but also to the countless millions of dead ones who are in God’s memory. (Luke 21:27, 28) Satan’s being called “the accuser of our brothers” shows that, even though his accusations against Job were proved false, he kept right on challenging the integrity of God’s earthly servants. Evidently, he repeated on many occasions the charge that a man will give all he has in exchange for his soul. How dismally Satan has failed!—Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5.
20. How have faithful Christians conquered Satan?
20 Anointed Christians, who are counted righteous “because of the blood of the Lamb,” are continuing to bear witness to God and to Jesus Christ despite persecutions. For more than 120 years, this John class has been pointing to the great issues involved with the ending of the Gentile Times in 1914. (Luke 21:24, King James Version) And the great crowd are now serving loyally by their side. None of these are “fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” as real-life experiences of Jehovah’s Witnesses have demonstrated over and over again during our time. By word of mouth and by proper Christian conduct, they have conquered Satan, consistently proving him to be a liar. (Matthew 10:28; Proverbs 27:11; Revelation 7:9) On being resurrected to heaven, how happy anointed Christians must be, since Satan is no longer up there to accuse their brothers! It is the time, indeed, for all the angelic host to respond joyously to the call: “Be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them!”
A Rival Woe!
21. How has Satan brought woe to the earth and to the sea?
21 Chafing because of the third woe, Satan is now intent on afflicting mankind with his own particular brand of woe. It is: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12b) Satan’s ouster from heaven does indeed mean woe for the literal earth, which is being ruined by selfish humans under his control. (Deuteronomy 32:5) Even more so, Satan’s policy of ‘rule or ruin’ brings woe to the symbolic earth, the structure of human society, as well as to the symbolic sea, the turbulent mass of mankind itself. During the two world wars, Satan’s wrath was reflected in the wrath of the nations subject to him, and similar explosions of demonic rage continue to this day—though not for much longer! (Mark 13:7, 8) But terrible as the Devil’s devices may be, they will never approach the woeful effect that the third woe—action by God’s Kingdom—will produce on Satan’s visible organization!
22, 23. (a) What does John say happens after the dragon has been hurled down to the earth? (b) How is it possible for the dragon to persecute “the woman that gave birth to the male child”?
22 Since Satan’s catastrophic ouster, Christ’s brothers still on the earth have borne the brunt of his wrath. John reports: “Now when the dragon saw that it was hurled down to the earth, it persecuted the woman that gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place; there is where she is fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent.”—Revelation 12:13, 14.
23 Here the vision picks up the thought introduced in verse 6, which tells us that after the birth of her child, the woman flees into the wilderness, away from the dragon. We may wonder how the dragon can persecute the woman, since she is in heaven and the dragon has now been cast down to the earth. Well, remember that the woman has children here on earth, her seed. Later in this vision, we are informed that Satan expresses his rage toward the woman by persecuting her seed. (Revelation 12:17) What happens to the woman’s seed here on earth may be regarded as happening to the woman herself. (Compare Matthew 25:40.) And the growing number of companions of the seed here on earth would also experience these persecutions.
A New Nation
24. What experience did the Bible Students have that was similar to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt?
24 While the first world war was being fought, Jesus’ brothers faithfully kept on with their witnessing to the extent possible. This was done in the face of intensified opposition from Satan and his vicious henchmen. Finally, the Bible Students’ public witnessing was virtually stopped. (Revelation 11:7-10) That was when they had an experience quite similar to that of the Israelites in Egypt who also endured under great oppression. It was then that Jehovah brought them swiftly, as if on wings of eagles, to safety in the desert of Sinai. (Exodus 19:1-4) Likewise, after the bitter persecution of 1918-19, Jehovah delivered his witnesses, as representing his woman, into a spiritual situation that was as safe for them as the desert was for the Israelites. This came as an answer to their prayers.—Compare Psalm 55:6-9.
25. (a) What did Jehovah bring forth in 1919, much as he brought forth the Israelites as a nation in the wilderness? (b) Who make up this nation, and into what have they been brought?
25 In the wilderness, Jehovah brought forth the Israelites as a nation, providing for them spiritually and physically. Similarly, starting in 1919, Jehovah brought forth the seed of the woman as a spiritual nation. This is not to be confused with the Messianic Kingdom that has been ruling from the heavens since 1914. Rather, this new nation is made up of the remnant of anointed witnesses on earth, who were brought into a glorious spiritual estate in 1919. Being provided now with “their measure of food supplies at the proper time,” these were strengthened for the work that lay ahead.—Luke 12:42; Isaiah 66:8.
26 How long did this respite for the seed of God’s woman last? Revelation 12:6 says 1,260 days. Revelation 12:14 calls the period a time, times, and half a time; in other words, three and a half times. In fact, both expressions stand for three and a half years, extending in the Northern Hemisphere from the spring of 1919 to the autumn of 1922. This was a period of refreshing recuperation and reorganization for the restored John class.
27. (a) According to John’s report, what did the dragon do after 1922? (b) What was Satan’s purpose in spewing forth a flood of persecution against the Witnesses?
27 The dragon did not give up! “And the serpent disgorged water like a river from its mouth after the woman, to cause her to be drowned by the river.” (Revelation 12:15) What is meant by “water like a river,” or “a flood of water”? (The New English Bible) Ancient King David spoke of the wicked men who opposed him as “flash floods of good-for-nothing men” [“streams of the worthless,” Young]. (Psalm 18:4, 5, 16, 17) What Satan now unleashes is likewise persecution by worthless or “good-for-nothing men.” After 1922 Satan spewed out a flood of persecution against the Witnesses. (Matthew 24:9-13) This came to include physical violence, “framing trouble by decree,” imprisonments, and even executions by hanging, shooting, and beheading. (Psalm 94:20) The debased Satan, having been denied direct access to God’s heavenly woman, set out wrathfully to attack her remaining seed on earth and to destroy them, either directly or by causing them to lose God’s favor through breaking their integrity. But their resolve proved to be like that of Job: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!”—Job 27:5.
28. How did the flood of persecution reach a peak during World War II?
28 This vicious flood of persecution reached a high point during World War II. In Europe some 12,000 Witnesses were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps and prisons, and about 2,000 died. Under the warlords that ruled Italy, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, faithful Witnesses suffered similar cruel treatment. Even in so-called democratic lands, the Witnesses were assaulted by Catholic Action groups, tarred and feathered, and run out of town. Christian assemblies were broken up and Witness children were expelled from school.
29. (a) How does John describe relief arriving from an unexpected source? (b) How is it that “the earth came to the woman’s help”? (c) What has the dragon continued to do?
29 Relief arrived from an unexpected source: “But the earth came to the woman’s help, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon disgorged from its mouth. And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:16, 17) “The earth”—elements within Satan’s own system of things—began to swallow up “the river,” or “flood.” During the 1940’s the Witnesses gained a series of favorable decisions in the United States Supreme Court, and from ruling powers in some other lands, that upheld freedom of worship. Finally, the Allied nations swallowed up the Nazi-Fascist juggernaut, to the relief of the Witnesses who had suffered under cruel dictatorships. Persecutions did not stop altogether, for the wrath of the dragon has continued until today, and he keeps up the war against those who “have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” In many lands, loyal Witnesses are still in prison, and some still die because of their integrity. But in some of these lands, the authorities from time to time relax their pressure, and the Witnesses enjoy a greater measure of freedom.* Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecy, the earth continues to swallow up the river of persecution.
30. (a) The earth has provided sufficient relief for what to take place? (b) The integrity of God’s people results in what?
30 In this way, the earth has provided sufficient relief to allow God’s work to spread to some 235 lands and produce over six million faithful preachers of the good news. Along with the remaining ones of the woman’s seed, a great international crowd of new believers is observing the commandments of God as to separateness from the world, clean morals, and love of the brothers, and they are witnessing to the Messianic Kingdom. Their integrity answers Satan’s reproachful challenge, so that the death knell is sounded for Satan and his system of things.—Proverbs 27:11.
Compare the 12 tribes of fleshly Israel, the 12 apostles, the 12 tribes of spiritual Israel, and the 12 gates, 12 angels, and 12 foundation stones of the New Jerusalem.—Revelation 21:12-14.
Notice, however, that Revelation 12:9 speaks of “the great dragon . . . and his angels.” So the Devil not only makes a counterfeit god of himself but also tries to become an archangel, though the Bible never gives him that title.
The highest courts in a number of lands have granted relief to Jehovah’s Witnesses; some of these decisions are cited in the box on page 92.
[Box on page 185]
“The Earth Opened Its Mouth”
Satan’s flash flood of persecution has been unleashed in many lands against anointed Christians and their companions. Often, though, developments within Satan’s own system of things have resulted in that flood’s being swallowed up.
The flood of mobbings and imprisonments in the United States was largely swallowed up by favorable Supreme Court decisions during the 1940’s.
1945: Vicious persecution in lands controlled by Germany and Japan was halted by Allied victories in World War II.
When a ban was imposed on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Dominican Republic, the Witnesses were imprisoned, lashed, and beaten with rifle butts. In 1960 a falling-out between dictator Rafael Trujillo and the Roman Catholic Church led to the lifting of the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The shooting, burning, rape, beating, torture, and killing of Witnesses during a civil war in Nigeria came to a halt in 1970 when government forces conquered the breakaway province where these things were happening.
In Spain homes were invaded and Christians fined and imprisoned for the “crime” of talking about God and holding Christian meetings. This persecution finally ended in 1970, when, as a result of the government’s change of policy toward non-Catholic religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses were allowed to become legally registered.
In Portugal hundreds of homes were searched without warrant. Witnesses were physically injured and thrown into prison, and their Bibles were confiscated. This terrorism was ‘swallowed up’ when, in 1974, a military revolution resulted in a change in government and a law was passed granting freedom of assembly.
In Argentina, under a military government, children of Jehovah’s Witnesses were expelled from school, and Witnesses around the country were arrested for preaching the good news. This persecution finally ended in 1984 when the then ruling government legally recognized the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Chart on page 183]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
1914 Birth of Kingdom
1919 Birth of new nation
1919-1922 Period of recuperation
1922- Flood of persecution
[Pictures on page 182]
Woe to the earth