Revelation 12:17

he went to make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God
This phrase is pregnant with anti-Semitism. Although the woman now hides, representing the hidden Jewish remnant, the dragon turns to pursue the rest of her offspring. This should not be taken as spiritual offspring for the context of this chapter and the identification of the woman argue that her offspring are physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the distinction which Paul maintains when he describes the time of Israel’s spiritual restoration in preparation for the Millennial Kingdom (Rom. Rom. 11:25-26 cf. Eze. Eze. 37:1). It is inconsistent interpretation to make her offspring in the first portion of the chapter denote physical descendants (Jews) only and then take her offspring as spiritual descendants here. In reference to the woman’s representation of Israel, some take her to be the faithful remnant within national Israel, the “Israel of God” (Gal. Gal. 6:16).1 In this view, she represents the spiritually regenerate among the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This view encounters some difficulties:
  • Promised Redeemer - The promise of a redeemer, so central to her identification in this chapter, was given to the physical seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It did not depend upon a continuous line of God-believing Jews for its fulfillment, it was a physical development. Paul says that “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” were given to “my countrymen according to the flesh” [emphasis added] (Rom. Rom. 9:3-4). One of these promises was that national Israel would produce the Messiah, regardless of the spiritual condition of the Jews (Rom. Rom. 9:5).
  • Purpose of Persecution - It would seem that one purpose of the time of Jacob’s Trouble is found in the purging of unbelief from national Israel. If the woman represents only the faithful remnant, who among her is purged (Eze. Eze. 20:33-38; Hos. Hos. 2:14-17)?
  • Anti-Semitism - Once we make the woman to be the faithful remnant within national Israel, it becomes difficult to explain the nature of anti-Semitism by what is revealed here. If the woman represents only faithful Jews and she is persecuted, then shouldn’t faithful Jews be the main focus of anti-Semitism? Wouldn’t Christian Jews be purged by the dragon while Orthodox Jews remain relatively unscathed? Yet History reveals an even-handed persecution of the Jews, even where faith in Messiah Jesus is lacking. In some instances, such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, lack of faith in Messiah Jesus even brought greater persecution. This chapter explains the history of anti-Semitism—the persecution of Jews based on physical descent —better if the woman is national Israel. Even unbelieving Jews represent a dangerous potential for the dragon, for they carry forward God’s promises to continue the physical nation and offer continued hope of the spiritual regeneration which Scripture promises (Jer. Jer. 31:34; Rom. Rom. 11:25-26).
This is not to say that taking the woman as national Israel is without its difficulties. For when she flees to the wilderness, not all Jews are in her midst. Here we encounter a problem similar to that of the parables: they are meant to be illustrative, but if taken to a minute level of detail, they break down. Here, the woman represents the original promise to Eve of a redeemer, realized and carried forward through the nation of Israel up to the birth of Jesus by Mary. Beyond the birth and catching away, she represents national Israel in general up until the time of her flight. During the time of the end, a subset of the Jews in Judea flee to the wilderness, whereas others do not (the 144,000 of Revelation Rev. 7:4+ and Jews of the diaspora). At the point of her flight, she no longer represents all of national Israel for there will be numerous groups of Jews at the time of the end:
  1. Jews protected in the wilderness, where God continues the work of purging idolatry from their midst (Hos. Hos. 2:14-17; Eze. Eze. 20:33-38).
  2. The 144,000 Jews protected by God’s seal, probably engaged in the work of worldwide evangelism (Rev. Rev. 7:1+, Rev. 14:1+).
  3. Jews in the diaspora who come to faith during this time who are unable to reach the wilderness with the woman.
  4. Jews in the diaspora who receive the Antichrist and his mark (John John 5:43).
The rest of her offspring speaks of all Jews who did not flee to the wilderness—both believing and unbelieving. The phrase is further restricted to the offspring who keep the commandments of God. This indicates that during the final half week unbelieving Jews are not the primary object of the dragon’s warfare—for they, like unbelieving Gentiles, will take his mark and give him due worship (Rev. Rev. 13:15-18+ cf. John John 5:43).2 It is believing Jews elsewhere around the world that are now his target. This will include the 144,000 of Israel who were sealed for protection (Rev. Rev. 7:4-8+). They are described as “ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes,” which indicates they keep the commandments of God (Rev. Rev. 14:4+). Besides the specially sealed 144,000, there will be many other Jews who come to faith by their ministry and that of the two witnesses during the time of Jacob’s Trouble. “These are scattered followers of the Lamb who did not reach the appointed place in the wilderness prepared for the main body of people symbolized by the woman.”3 These are those Jesus referred to as “My brethren,” (Mtt. Mat. 25:40) which were provided for by the “sheep” (righteous Gentiles) who are afforded entry into the Millennial Kingdom to follow.4 These Jews will be involved in evangelism, because they have the testimony of Jesus Christ.5 We are not saying that Gentile believers will not undergo persecution. Far from it! The many passages concerning the activities of the Beast and his image, the False Prophet, and the Harlot make it painfully clear that all believers—be they Jewish or Gentile will undergo extreme danger and persecution during this time (Rev. Rev. 6:9+; Rev. 7:14+; Rev. 20:4+). See #20 - Saints. The wrath of the dragon has been building as he is frustrated at each of his attempts:

The dragon had to redirect his anger from the Son to the woman in Rev. Rev. 12:5+ when the Son escaped his clutches. That increased his rage. He lost his place in heaven in Rev. Rev. 12:8+, Rev. 12:9+, Rev. 12:12+, angering him even more. At this point the woman has escaped to a place of refuge leaving him only the woman’s remaining seed to vent his fury on. The repeated frustration of his efforts explains the furious persecution the dragon proceeds to inflict on the faithful.6

But it will be doubly difficult for the Jewish believers because God has revealed the uniquely Jewish terror of this time:

At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. (Dan. Dan. 12:1)

Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. (Jer. Jer. 30:7)

In the Holocaust under Hitler, one-third of the world’s Jewish population died. Under the fierce persecution of the Antichrist, controlled and energized by Satan, two-thirds of the Jewish population will die [Zec. Zec. 13:7-9]. This will be the largest and most intense persecution of the Jews ever known in history.7

Zechariah Zec. 13:8-9 indicates that only one-third of Israel will survive the tribulation and enter the millennium. This will result in an “all saved” Israel as prophesied by Romans Rom. 11:26. At the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century there are approximately fifteen million Jews worldwide, so, if this is a guide, it suggests that about five million Jews will enter the millennium and ten million Jews will perish in the Great Tribulation.8

However, the dragon will not succeed in his “ultimate solution.” As in the days of the Assyrian, God will protect a believing remnant:

And it shall come to pass in that day That the remnant of Israel, and such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, will never again depend on him who defeated them, but will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, A remnant of them will return; the destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a determined end in the midst of all the land. (Isa. Isa. 10:20-23) [emphasis added]

The dragon fights a battle he can never win, for God has sworn that Israel will continue before Him (Jer. Jer. 31:35-37). Her continued existence is also required in order to fulfill aspects of the Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, and New Covenants which have yet to find fulfillment.9 By the end of Jacob’s time of trouble, the terms Israel and Israel of God (Gal. Gal. 6:16) will be synonymous for “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. Rom. 11:26). At that time, the only Israel will be a believing Israel:

No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jer. Jer. 31:34)

have the testimony of Jesus Christ
They have the testimony provided by Jesus Christ which they witness to others concerning Him. See commentary on Revelation 1:1 and Revelation 1:2.


1 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 12:1.

2 It is unclear whether the acceptance of the mark by some Jews will guarantee their survival under the Beast. Isaiah describes a “covenant with death” which God annuls: “When the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it” (Isa. Isa. 28:15-18). Perhaps the rage of the dragon will be so great against the Jews that the Beast will make an exception and exterminate even those Jews who take his mark.

3 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 12:17.

4 Those who take “My brethren” as denoting the family of faith face the difficulty of explaining who the sheep are? If His brothers are both Jews and Gentiles in the faith, then how can the sheep be separate from them and yet also inherit the kingdom? The actions of the sheep and their reward of entry to the kingdom demonstrate them to be among the saved. The differentiation between Jesus’ brothers and the sheep cannot be based upon spiritual regeneration, but must reflect a national Jew/Gentile distinction concerning persecution at the time of the end.

5 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 297.

6 Thomas, Revelation 8-22, Rev. 12:17.

7 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 289.

8 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 12:15.

9 Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, 291-292.