The Mad Dragon's Final Attack on the Remaining Ones
Revelation 12:17, first part

The mad dragon setting

    "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)

   Does this verse simply describe the principle that everyone who wants to live righteously in Christ will be persecuted? 2ti0312; or does it describe a special people at a special time? Because, in a recent visit, I matched a succession of historical events with the verses in the latter part of the chapter and included this verse, you can guess my own answer to the question r12t. But it's a good question and we need to take a careful look at it.
   I think of several reasons to see the dragon's making war with the remnant of the woman's seed as a specific event at the end of time: (1) In comparison to the "woman," discussed through the chapter, the term here at the end, "remnant of her seed," points to a people in a time following the experiences of the woman herself as related in the preceding verses of the chapter. (2) The main part of the chapter beginning with verse 7 is in chronological progression so we expect this verse to follow the pattern. (3) The movement of the dragon shows the event as after the earth's swallowing the flood in the previous verse. (I'll explain.) (4) This most severe attack by Satan on God's people is seen in other Bible passages to be just before they are rescued. Points 1 and 2 are probably clear. Let's look more closely at the other two.

Movement of the dragon
   A good clue that this verse is flowing chronologically in the narrative is the word, went. The dragon "went to make war with the remnant of her seed." He moved, apparently away from the woman herself, to focus special attention on a part of the family the remnant of her seed. Earlier, we saw that, when his plan to destroy Christ failed, he turned to persecute the woman. Now, although angry with the woman when helped by the earth, he expresses his anger toward "the remnant of her seed." Later we will explore the biblical concept of remnants.

Just before the rescue
   Next let's compare passages describing end-time events which can reasonably be seen as the same attack as is discussed in our verse.
   "The dragon was angry with the woman." This idea of anger is new in the context. He persecuted the woman (v. 13), and he tried to carry her away with a flood (v. 16), but this is the first mention of anger. Satan has always hated Christ and people who are faithful to Christ, but somehow this anger is special in comparison. I believe this verse describes his final attack on the saints.
   I see it as a different description of the time of trouble of Dan. 12:1 from which the faithful ones are saved. The final verses of Dan. 11 describe Satan's part of the conflict. We may also find a parallel in the following:
   "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon [and the mouths of his two helpers]. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." (Rev. 16:13, 14)

    In a sense, the next two chapters (13 and 14) will expand on our verse, 12:17. In chapter 13 we find the beast from the sea and the beast from the land helping the dragon. Finally the death threat is given for those who do not worship the image of the beast (13:15) whose power comes from the dragon (13:2). Severe sanctions are announced against those who refuse the beast's mark (13:16, 17). In chapter 14 the third angel announces God's punishment without mercy for anyone who does receive the beast's mark (14:9-11), then in verse 12 is seen the contrast of the faithful ones described in terms much like the faithful here in 12:17. I believe we will find them to be the same people. See the chart of parallel events for chapters 12, 13 and 14.
   At the end of chapter 6 we found the wicked receiving the wrath of God and asking "who will be able to stand" in the the day of wrath (6:17) 0617. Then in chapter 7 we saw the 144,000 standing in response to the question. I believe they are the same group as the remnant we have discussed.
   By repetition, using different sets of symbols and with different perspectives, the Holy Spirit allows us to discover truth in the prophecies.

   We have taken a peek at what is coming to give perspective to this final verse in chapter 12. I have described, in very broad strokes, the picture I see. As we continue, I believe you will understand how this verse describes Satan's final battle with the faithful ones. For now, let's confirm our own commitment to our precious Saviour. The words in the circle around the woman in the illustration are from Rev. 14:12 and 12:17..

Survivors, the remnant

   "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)

   By the term, remnant or rest, we refer to what is left after the main part is gone. This concept occurs often in the Bible. In settings involving God's people, remnants are groups, usually of faithful ones, who remain after the majority has turned away from God. The first good example is the eight survivors of the flood although the term "remnant" is apparently not used for them. The few who responded to God's call through Noah became the nucleus of a new beginning. In the next major scene in the book of Genesis (chapter 11), we find people building a tower with the idea of escaping another flood. To stem the rebellion, God confused their language and thus scattered them. We aren't told of any remnant at this time.
   Later, because of the sins of Israel and Judah, God allowed them to go into captivity ez3923. He dispersed His unfaithful people to give them opportunity to turn from their wickedness. The majority, however, liked the place of their captivity notably Babylon and, instead of teaching the people about the true and loving God, they adopted the evil of the nations. When the opportunity to return to rebuild the temple came, a few responded to the challenge under the leadership of Ezra. Notice the beautiful prayer of Ezra in the presence of a gathering of "every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away [into captivity]." See ezr0905ff.
   Among the captives was a remnant who heeded the calls through Ezra and Nehemiah to come out for a new beginning. The calling out is sometimes described as a gathering.
   "I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men." Micah 2:12. Also see de3003 and re1113 and re0224.

How will it all end?
   Notice the words of Jesus: ". . . and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. 24:30, 31)

   God has often gathered His people. This time the chosen ones (the remnant) are gathered from among the terrified tribes of earth. The elect is also described by Paul as the faithful waiting ones who join the resurrected "dead in Christ." 1th0417. I believe both involve the group we have been studying about, the remnant of the woman's seed. In Paul's description the faithful will be caught up to meet their Lord in the air. After this final gathering they will never again be scattered. The verse says, "So shall we ever be with the Lord." Praise God that we may each be part of that group who are "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:13)


What are the remnant doing?

   "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)

   We have looked at the time of this special remnant. They are not just the woman's seed, but the remnant of her seed at the end of the vision, after the earth helped her. We find more good information at the end of the verse which tells what they do. They "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
What are the commandments of God?
   The emphasis in most Christian circles today is on what we might call the commandments of Jesus. The specific "commandments of God" from Exodus 20 are considered to be only for the Jews although it is felt that broad principles may be inferred from them. If this group living in the Christian era had a new standard of divine expectation, the easier "commandments of Jesus," wouldn't the Holy Spirit have inspired John to write: ". . . the remnant of her seed who keep the commandments of Jesus Christ and have His testimony"? Instead a differentiation is made between "God" and "Jesus Christ." Of course, Jesus is also divine (John 1:1; 20:28; Matt. 16:16) but the distinction between the Old Testament commandment giver and the incarnate Jesus is clear here.
   You might remember that I explained how the same Christ was the Lord of the Old Testament. He was the spiritual rock that followed the children of Israel (1 Cor. 10:4). He was the I AM who led them out of Egypt (John 8:58; Ex. 3:14, 17).

Let's look at the New Testament commandments of Jesus:
   "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:36-40)

   The two "laws" were quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. By the term, "the law and the prophets" Jesus was referring to the Old Testament which supports these two commandments. Could He have been promoting conflicting ideas in the New Testament? No. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8). In fact, the ten commandments the heart of the "law" part of "the law and the prophets" reveals the same principles. The first four commandments tell us what it means to love God, and the last six, what it means to love our neighbors.
   Our passage tells us that the remnant "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." The term "commandments of God" points us to His plan for happiness revealed in the Old Testament. As God of the Old Testament, along with the Father, He gave commandments that are to stand until heaven and earth pass away (Matt. 5:18). "Jesus" is our Lord's human name (Matt. 1:21). The two-word term "Jesus Christ" expresses divinity in human flesh. He continues to guide His people by His testimony after the time of the Old Testament. Next time we will look at this testimony.
   Because the law of God is still valid for the remnant of the woman's seed, do we find salvation by keeping it? Not at all ga0311f. (f means following verse, ff, following verses.) And in times of the Old Testament? Their salvation, like ours, was by the Lamb of God to whom the sacrifices pointed le0427ff, jn0129. The blood of Christ is offered in grace for our salvation ep0208f. The law is an index used by the Spirit to help us know whether or not we have accepted that grace into our lives ro0707, ro0331; mt1627, mt0721. The ceremonial law pointed forward to Christ and was fulfilled in Him. The "law of God," written by His finger, points back to creation the beginning of all humanity ex2008ff.
   Elsewhere we discuss commandment keeping in connection with Jesus' commandment to "love one another." 1412c

   Amazing grace that my Lord would personally reach out to a sinner like me! I love Him!

Chap. 12 home
Revelation home
Commentary home