Revelation 12-14 provided a backstage view of the Devil’s war against the followers of Christ. The visions in these chapters—in accord with descriptions of judgement in the sixth (Rev 6:12-17) and seventh (Rev 8:1-6) seals, and the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:15-19)—showed the fulfillment of God’s word to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. There God announced to the Devil that the seed of the woman would strike his head (Gen 3:15). Having been defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection (Rev 5:5-12; 12:1-12; 1 Cor 15:51-57; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14-15), the Devil employed every deceptive force in his arsenal to wage war against believers (Rev 12:13-13:18; Eph 6:10-17). Even during the Devil’s last hurrah, God demonstrated His supremacy over the forces of evil, enabling the faithful to endure and inherit their reward of eternal life. In Revelation 12-14, John employed a variety of Old Testament ideas to synthesize Scripture’s storyline.
(1) In Rev 12:3, John saw a dragon that resembled the fourth beast in Daniel’s vision of world powers. In Daniel 7, the prophet had a dream and received a vision of four beasts that would come upon the earth to rule in succession. The fourth beast frightened Daniel because of its strength, iron teeth, and ten horns (Dan 7:7). During the reign of the fourth beast, Daniel saw the Ancient of Days take His throne and one like a son of man approached the Ancient of Days to receive authority and rule God’s kingdom (Dan 7:9-14). John saw a dragon with seven heads and ten horns standing in front of the woman, ready to devour her Son when He was born (Rev 12:3).
(2) In Rev 12:5, John saw the woman give birth to a Son whose rule resembled that of the King of Israel. In Psalm 2, the psalmist described the divine coronation of Israel’s King. Though the nations surrounding Israel conspired to thwart God’s King in Israel, the King was God’s Son, commissioned to rule for God on God’s holy mountain (Ps 2:1-6). The Lord proclaimed to His King in Zion that the King would break His opponents with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware (Ps 2:7-9). Both Israel’s King in Psalm 2 and the Son born to the woman in Rev 12:5 had power to rule with an iron scepter.
(3) In Rev 12:7, John saw a vision of spiritual warfare that paralleled visions of spiritual warfare in Daniel. In Daniel 10, for three weeks Daniel had been mourning Israel’s subjection to her enemies. Then, he received a vision, which showed him that during those three weeks there was a spiritual battle in heaven delaying the angelic messenger from coming to Daniel’s aid (Dan 10:1-13a). “Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia,” the angelic messenger told Daniel (Dan 10:13b). Michael watched over Daniel and all of Israel (Dan 10:21; 12:1). Daniel’s description of spiritual war in heaven, including the Archangel Michael’s authority in battle, provided the background for John’s vision in Revelation 12. After the birth of the woman’s Son, John saw an angelic war in heaven where Michael and his angels fought against the Devil and his demonic forces (Rev 12:7). Michael and his angels prevailed, and the Devil was thrown to the earth.
(4) In Rev 13:1-5, John’s vision of the beast from the sea resembled the beasts Daniel saw in his vision of world powers. Daniel learned that the beasts he saw were kings that would rule in succession (Dan 7:16-17). The first beast was like a lion, the second beast looked like a bear, the third beast was like a leopard, and the fourth beast spoke arrogantly (Dan 7:3-8). John saw a vision of a leopard-like beast coming out of the sea and its feet were like those of a bear, its mouth was like that of a lion, and it spoke with boasting and blasphemy (Rev 13:1-2, 5). The dragon introduced in Revelation 12 gave the beast his authority so that the whole earth worshipped the dragon and the beast (Rev 13:3-4).
(5) In Rev 13:10, John responded to the vision of the dragon and the beast by writing a proverb that reflected the Lord’s word to Jeremiah concerning His sentence against the people of Judah. Jeremiah cried out to God so that He would not reject His people, asking God to intervene for His own Name’s sake and the covenant He made with His people (Jer 14:17-22). The Lord replied to Jeremiah that even if Moses or Elijah should plead Judah’s case, His verdict against His people would not change, saying, “Those destined for death, to death; those destined for the sword, to the sword. Those destined for famine, to famine; those destined for captivity, to captivity” (Jer 15:2b). John wrote that what the people of Judah experienced because of their sin, his audience should expect because of the dragon and the beast’s war against the saints. Since everyone living on earth, everyone whose name was not written in the Lamb’s book of life, would worship the beast and the dragon, believers would be attacked on all sides, sent to captivity and killed by the sword (Rev 13:7-10a). John wrote, “Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10b).
(6) In Rev 14:14, John saw One like the Son of Man resembling the figure that approached the Ancient of Days in Daniel’s vision. When the Ancient of Days appeared coming with the clouds in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, Daniel saw a son of man figure approach the Ancient of Days and receive His kingdom, to rule over all nations with power and authority forever (Dan 7:13-14). John saw One like the Son of Man seated on the clouds, having a sickle of judgement in His hand and a gold crown on His head (Rev 14:14). John heard an angel proclaim to the Son of Man that He should swing His sickle and reap the earth’s harvest.
(7) In Rev 14:20, John saw the blood of those suffering the wrath of God flowing on the ground outside of the city, echoing Isaiah’s prediction that blood would cover the ground on the day of God’s wrath. Isaiah proclaimed that on the day of the Lord’s vengeance against His enemies, He alone would conquer them, pouring out their blood on the ground (Isa 63:1-6). In John’s vision, the blood spilling from the winepress of the wrath of God flowed for 180 miles as deep as a horse’s bridle (Rev 14:20).