12:12-14 THE WOMAN IN THE WILDERNESS
“And her Child was caught up to God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourshed for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:5,6).
“Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.' And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And to the woman were 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, from the face of the serpent” (Revelation 12:12-14).
Both of these passages refer to the same thing: the fleeing of the woman from the persecutions of Satan to a place in the wilderness which God had prepared. The woman who gave birth to the male child represented the people of God of the Old Testament period, the Jewish nation. However, Jesus made it clear that He was transferring the title, privileges, and responsibilities of being the people of God from the Jews to the church<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>—“God placed all things under His [Christ’s] feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22). This means that after “her child [Jesus] was caught up to God and His throne” (the resurrection and ascension) the woman now represented the church of God, “whoever believes in Him” from “every nation, tribe tongue, and people.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
A quick reading of Revelation 12:1-6 makes it seem that immediately after the resurrection of Christ the church “fled into the wilderness” for “1,260 days.” However, this passage is a brief outline, with the details being filled out in verses 7-17. Particularly, in verses 13 and 14 it becomes obvious that there are a number of stages. First, the dragon saw that he had been "cast to the earth" (he no longer had access to the angels in heaven). Then he “persecuted the woman” and finally the woman “was given two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness.” Being given “two wings of a great eagle” is a reference to the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. They suffered increasing persecution until God, through miracles and plagues, finally brought them out of Egypt to the wilderness where they experienced His providence and refining for forty years. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Exodus 19:4). This experience foreshadowed the experience of the church.
Satan, knowing “that he has a short time,” tried various strategies to defeat the church. The first persecutions were by the Jews following the stoning of Stephen, but this plan totally backfired: “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:1,4). The Romans also persecuted the Christians starting with Nero in AD 64, but again these persecutions tended to strengthen the believers and the faith spread rapidly. Finally Satan hit upon a more successful plan: corrupting the church from the inside.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> With the “conversion” of emperor Constantine in AD 312 the stage was set for the persecution of the Christian church by the “Christian” church.
“The woman fled into the wilderness” (v. 6). The wilderness was a place of protection for the people of God.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Stephen referred to the fledgling congregation that left Egypt under the leadership of Moses as “the church [Greek ekklisia] in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38), and this wilderness church of the exodus was brought to a place of safety “on eagles’ wings.” In the same way the remnant underground church of the Middle Ages was protected from annihilation—“To the woman were given the two wings of a great eagle” (Revelation 12:14). Thus eagle’s wings symbolize divine protection.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This protection does not mean that God’s people are totally free from danger. Since Satan is “the ruler of this world,”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> he makes sure that even in the wilderness God’s people are pursued (“The serpent cast water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman,” see next section). But God did preserve a remnant during the “1,260 days” who kept the knowledge of the Lord alive.
Continue to next section: ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY DAYS
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> In the parable of the vine dressers Jesus described with cutting accuracy the response of the Jews to God’s initiatives, culminating with the killing of the son. In response to this He said, “Therefore the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43). Then in Chapter 23, after outlining the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders and their rejection of those God had sent to them, Jesus lamented, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!…See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:36-38). Now God’s plan is that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28), “that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church” (Ephesians 3:10).
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> John 3:16, Revelation 14:6.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> The corruption of the church began during the lifetime of the Apostles and intensified after they died. “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2Thess 2:7). “As you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come…(1 John 2:18). “For I know this, that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29,30).
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> “David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness…Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand” (1 Samuel 23:14).
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> See also Deuteronomy 32:10-12, Isaiah 40:28-31.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11.