The Great War – Part 3: The war on earth – Revelation 12:13-17


We have identified the players in this great war as Israel, Jesus, and Satan. The war is fought both in heaven and on earth. We have already seen the great battle in heaven through which Satan and his followers are now permanently cast out of heaven. This battle is described in Revelation 12:7-12. Now, we come to the time when Satan is cast out of heaven and he then attacks God’s people on the earth with a very fierce rage. This war on the earth is described in Revelation 12:13-17. There are basically three waves of attacks where Satan’s forces will come against Israel during the tribulation period.

The first wave. The first wave of attack against Israel is seen in verse 13-14. And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” [1]After Satan and his troops are defeated by the angel Michael, he is cast out of heaven permanently. Now that he is back on the earth, he begins to exercise great persecution upon believers, particularly Jewish believers. The Antichrist breaks his peace treaty with Israel and comes against them with great intensity. This time is so difficult that God intervenes by using various Gentiles to help the people of Israel to flee to safety. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out, “This hiding place was not clearly identified. Some suggest that it might be Petra, fortress capital of the Nabateans in Edom, south of the Dead Sea. This city has a narrow access which could easily be blocked but which opens up into a large canyon capable of caring for many thousands of people. Though Scripture is not specific, some believe the 144,000 of chapter 7 are to be preserved here. The Scriptures themselves speak of God’s seal of protection on them. The two wings probably do not refer to modern airplanes but rather to God’s delivering power, and are a figure of speech taken from such Old Testament passages as Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11–12. The flight of Israel to a place of safety was also indicated in Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14; and Luke 21:21.”[2] Those who successfully flee to this place of safety will remain there during the duration of the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation period. Cut off from the rest of the world and all the turmoil that the world is facing during this time, God will supernaturally protect and provide for the people of Israel.

The second wave. After his initial attempt to destroy the people of Israel is stopped, Satan then issues a second wave of attack. This is seen in verses 15-16. “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.” [3] Warren Wiersbe writes, “The phrase “water as a flood” is not explained, but there is a parallel in Psalm 124. (Also note the phrase “escaped as a bird” in verse 7 of this same Psalm.) This “flood” is probably an outpouring of hatred and anti-Semitic propaganda. Or it may symbolize armies that invade Israel and seek to defeat the remnant. If that is the meaning, then the earth opening up could well be an earthquake that God sends to destroy the invaders. When Satan discovers that the people he seeks to kill are protected, then he turns on those who were not carried to the hidden place of safety. He will declare war, and God will permit him to have victory for a time (Rev. 13:7); but ultimately, the old serpent will be defeated.”[4]

The third wave. The third and final wave of attack is seen in verse 17. “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”[5] At this point, Satan is furious. He was permanently thrown out heaven, he takes revenge on God’s chose people, God’s people flees and is protected, his second attack is also stopped, and now he goes after anyone he can find who believes in Jesus. Using the forces of the Antichrist, Satan will seek out any believers who are left unprotected and will seek to destroy them. Just like in the first two waves of attack, Satan will ultimately fail and Jesus Christ will be triumphant!

Spiritual lessons. There are several spiritual lessons that we learn from this passage. The first lesson is that we have a powerful and relentless foe. Satan will do anything he can to thwart God’s plan. He is even doing that today. He is also seeking to thwart God’s plan in your life. He will do everything he can to keep you from being obedient to God and from being in the center of God’s plan for your life. If he can distract you and get you out of God’s plan, he can hinder the work of Gospel. A second lesson is that no one is exempt from the attacks of Satan. Again, Satan will do anything he can to keep you from God’s plan. He will use any means possible to get your eyes off of Jesus. No believer in Christ is exempt from such attacks. No matter who you are, he will come after you. A final lesson we learn here is that we must stay focused on Jesus. The only way to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks is to rest in Jesus. We must depend upon Him to protect us from the evil one. This is made possible as we keep our eyes on Jesus and maintain a daily and personal walk with Him. Do you have such a relationship with Jesus? Are you maintaining a daily walk with Jesus? Would you be able to stand against the attacks of Satan?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 12:13–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 959). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 12:15–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 604). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 12:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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