Revelation 12:1-17

May 8, 2024

Revelation 12:1-17

Today happens to be the Synaxis of the Holy Powder (or manna) which emitted from the tomb of Saint John the Theologian

The Synaxarion explains,

"The feast today in honor of the holy Apostle John commemorates the miracle taking place each year in Ephesus, in which a certain dust or powder, called manna, suddenly poured forth from his tomb and was used by the faithful for deliverance from maladies of both soul and body.

Apolytikion of Synaxis of John the Theologian in the Second Tone

Beloved Apostle of Christ our God, hasten to deliver a people without defense.

He who permitted you to recline upon His bosom, accepts you on bended knee before Him.

Beseech Him, O Theologian, to dispel the persistent cloud of nations, asking for us peace and great mercy."

Even to this day, if you visit the tomb of St John in Ephesus, you will observe a hole covered by an iron grate adjacent to the marble monument, from which the holy manna used to arise.

In any case, I realized I had no contributions from the book of Revelation on this website. Since I wanted to post some follow-up regarding the time period leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, I decided to post Revelation 12.  This pericope includes two parallel references to the latter half of Daniel’s 70th week. (If you haven’t read my posts on Daniel 9 or Matthew 24, please feel free to do so.) 

Revelation 12 is located in the literary center of the book. (Actually, it is the beginning of the 2nd half.) The book itself may be viewed as a large chiastic structure:

Prologue 1:1-8

A. Vision of Salvation Promised 1:9-3:22

B. Visions of Judgment 4:1-11:19

B’ Visions of Judgment 12:1-20:15

A’ Vision of Salvation Fulfilled 21:1-22:17

Epilogue 22:18-21

In the book of Revelation, St. John recorded aspects/concepts of eschatology often categorized under the headings of the Great Tribulation and the Antichrist. Regarding the Antichrist, we see “the beast” described in the book of Revelation, for example in 13:5 (and that may be a topic for some other day). Regarding the Great Tribulation, this seven-year period (Daniel’s 70th week) was first revealed in Daniel 9:24-27. We see especially the latter half of that seven-year period described in Revelation.Yet, as mentioned above, our Lord previously taught about this time period in Matthew 24.

In Revelation, this latter 3.5 year period is first mentioned in Rev 11:2. There we are told the holy city (Jerusalem) would be trampled underfoot by the nations for forty-two months (= 3.5 years). Rev 11:3 relates how two prophets of God would prophesy for 1,260 days (which time period equals forty-two months in the 360-day lunar calendar). It is not my intention to go into details on proposed interpretations and fulfillments. I just want to provide a little more info regarding this specific period.

In our passage, in Rev 12:6 the 1,260 days figure is repeated.

However, its parallel in Rev 12:14, symbolizes the equivalent 3.5 years time period by use of the phrase, “a time, and times, and half a time” (taken directly from Daniel 9).

Lastly, in Rev 13:5, St. John records the vision of the beast with seven heads (usually equated with the Antichrist of 1 & 2 John).

According to John, this beast will be given authority for forty-two months and will rule over the earth during that time (Rev 13:7-8).

As a spoiler alert, I have previously mapped out Daniel’s 70 weeks and come to the conclusion that the first 3.5 years of the 70th week took place during the earthly ministry of Christ. I see the second half as taking place in the 3.5 years preceding the destruction of the temple in August, AD 70. In my Daniel post I include a pdf file that illustrates how the intervening 35 years between the two halves can be accounted for within the context of Daniel’s prophecy. I don’t expect to win followers. However, I will say the numbers do add up - exactly. If one takes this (what might be termed as) “Partial Preterist” interpretation, then one must eventually explain how this interpretation might fit within the prophecy of St. John. For starters, any past fulfillment in the AD 70 time period must therefore mean that the book of Revelation was written earlier than what was prophesied. In fact, in my opinion, internal evidence within the book of Revelation favors of an early date of composition. For example, the temple still seems to be standing in Rev 11:1-2.

Rev. 11:1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,

Rev. 11:2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.

Also, in Rev 17:10, St. John explains that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings. “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come.” Therefore, from St. John’s perspective, the sixth king was alive when Revelation was composed. Many Preterists and partial Preterists point to Nero as the sixth Caesar (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero). Others skip three of the four emperors who ruled in ruled in quick succession in AD 69 after Nero’s death (Galba, Otho, Vitellius). Instead, they land on Vespasian as the seventh head. 

I do realize that the early church father, St Irenaeus, has been understood by tradition as advocating a late date (near the end of the 1st century during the time of Domitian). However, his actual statement can be seen as ambiguous. He says, "For it was seen not very long ago, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign. (Saint Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 5, 30, 3) When he says "For it,” does “it” refer to the vision? If so, then he is advocating a late date. If “it” refers to the circulation of the book of Revelation, then it may be possible to understand that St. John’s prophetic vision came earlier (before the destruction of Jersusalem). His prophecy would have been delivered, as intended by God, to the Christian community who needed it. Yet, only later did it become more widely circulated (so as to be seen by Irenaeus during the time of Domitian).

I don’t want to dwell on these introductory matters without touching on the text of the pericope!  Notice that it is structured as 3 sets of A/B parallels.  In each case the A terms are associated with heaven and the the B terms are associated with Earth. So, within that larger (non-chiastic) set of parallels there are thus six sub-sections.  In these subsections we do find smaller substructures (some of which are chiastic) as noted in the outline above. Since I have a side interest in the chronology of the 3.5 years, I think it can be said that the timing as found in Revelation 12 is consistent with what I have previousy noted in Daniel 9 and Matthew 24. In Revelation 12, we see time references to the birth of the Messiah and then, crucially, to his ascension. I understand the Woman as symbolizing true Israel, the faithful Jewish remnant who believed in Christ and became the Messianic church. At some point after the ascension she flees to the wilderness (just as the early church took refuge in Pella, Jordan during the Jewish wars). As our lord said, these things began to occur within one generation from when he spoke. This time is illustrated below.  

I will leave it to the reader to examine the smaller substructures and observe the parallel words and/or concepts that serve to associate them properly within the literary structure.