Summary: Flight of Israel to protection
Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.
But the woman was 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 presence of the serpent. Revelation 12:13-14 (NKJV)
Over the past six weeks, we have studied in Revelation 12, and this week we wrap up our study in the last four verses, 13 through 17. We have seen how the Woman (Israel) has been pursued by the Dragon (Satan) and tried to kill both the Woman and her Child (Jesus Christ).
Further, we saw a great war in heaven between the Michael the archangel and the holy angels of God and Satan and his demonic, fallen angels. The result of that war was that Satan and the fallen angels were cast down from heaven and the atmosphere and onto the earth and the seas. Last week, we saw that there was great rejoicing in Heaven because Satan was cast out permanently, would no longer appear to accuse God's people day and night and that great woe would come upon those on Planet Earth, on both land and sea, bringing us up to verse 13.
The Greatest Persecution
Perhaps you have heard the term "anti-Semitism", and thought that it was just a dislike of Jewish people. We live in a day and age where the "race card" has been played in the political arena, in the workforce and even in the pews of some churches. However, anti-Semitism has its roots from the very Garden of Eden, but is more specific to the time of the generation that followed Noah onward. The term "Semite", refers to Jews and those of the nation of Israel; the term comes from the name Shem, one of the three sons of Noah. Shem was the one son from which the nation of Israel can trace back to Noah.
Throughout the ages, Satan has sought to kill the decedents of Shem, more specifically the nation of Israel. Satan has influenced Pharaoh in Egypt to kill the male infants in Exodus, but God preserved Moses to bring Israel out of that country. In the book of Esther, Haman sought to kill all the Jews but God used Esther to preserve the country. The Philistines were often at war with Israel.
During the Crusades, many Jews were persecuted and died at the hands of the Crusaders; Fox's Book of Martyrs records the murder of many Jews by the Catholic church in the middle ages. However, the looming example from more modern times was the attempt of Hitler's Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jewish Race entirely. Although the Nazis murdered an horrific six million Jews Hitler did not succeed, and only three years after the end of World War II Israel became a country once more. Yet, the greatest persecution of Israel is yet to come, as we will see this week in Revelation 12:13-17.
On Eagles Wings
The Tribulation period as a whole will be the most horrifying time on earth, for two reasons. First, God will expend his fury upon unrepentant mankind, including unrepentant Jews as we have seen in chapters prior. But, secondly, Satan will make his last stand, a futile but persistent attempt to thwart the coming reign of Jesus Christ.
During the Great Tribulation (the last half, 3 ½ years), The Dragon, whom we identified as Satan, is filled with fury and rage like never before. He had lost his place as the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph 2:2) and now his theater of war was limited solely to the land and the seas. His goal now was to persecute the Woman (the nation of Israel). The Greek verb translated persecuted (dioko) means "to pursue," "to chase," or "to hunt." (John MacArthur); in other words, Satan and his demonic horde make it their purpose to hunt down and kill every Jew that they can find. Torture, yes; but the key intent is, as it had been in the past, to kill every Jew and wipe the nation of Israel off of Planet Earth...to kill God's chosen people.
However, we see in verse 13 that "the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place". These two particular word pictures have been described in many ways. Let's take a look at both, and look at the different views concerning both starting today with the word picture of "two wings of a great eagle".
First, what is the meaning of "two wings of a great eagle"? There are all sorts of thoughts about this. Some think that the eagle represents the United States, but that is most likely not the case because at least twenty seven other countries of the world have the eagle as their symbol (including Russia, Mexico, Albania, Germany and the Czech Republic). There are also some that seem to think that this is a reference to aircraft, but that is not likely for two reasons; no single aircraft is large enough to transport that many at a single time and also, as J. Vernon McGee noted, where would you land everyone? In short, there will likely be millions of saved Jews at that time.