Revelation 12: The Great Battle between Good and Evil

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 171–172

At the end of Revelation 11 we read that after the seventh angel sounded his trump “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (v. 15). This would begin the Millennium, one thousand years of peace that will occur after the wicked are destroyed. During this time Christ will reign on the earth and “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” (Articles of Faith 1:10). Revelation 12, however, does not tell about the conditions during the Millennium, as one might expect. Instead, Revelation 12–18 tells more about the battle between good and evil, the growth of the kingdoms of Satan in opposition to the kingdom of God, and the eventual destruction of the kingdoms of Satan in preparation for the Millennium. In fact, Revelation 12 tells that John saw how this great battle between the followers of Satan and the followers of God began back in the premortal life and has continued throughout the history of the earth. Most of the next few chapters, however, refer to what will happen in the latter days (see 1 Nephi 14:18–22, 27).

Understanding the Scriptures

Revelation 12

Travailing (v. 2)In labor pains 
Devour (v. 4)Eat up (in this case, to destroy) 
Prevailed (v. 8)To gain the victory 
Inhabiters of the earth (v. 12)People who live on earth 
Wrath, wroth (vv. 12, 17)Anger, angry 
Nourished (v. 14)To be given what is necessary to stay alive 
Time, and times, and a half time (v. 14)This refers to three and one-half years 
The remnant (v. 17)The rest, those who are left 

Be sure to read the Joseph Smith Translation for Revelation 12. There are many changes, corrections, and additions.

Revelation 12:1–6, 13–17—The Woman and the Man Child

The Joseph Smith Translation for Revelation 12 helps us understand that the woman John saw represents “the Church of God” and the man child represents “the kingdom of our God and his Christ” (JST,  Revelation 12:7), who “was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (JST,  Revelation 12:3), or the word of God. Christ Himself set up this kingdom when He lived on earth. Apostasy drove it “into the wilderness” for centuries, which means it was not a governing influence in the lives of God’s children on earth for a period of time. In the last days, however, the keys of the kingdom of God have again been restored to the earth and will be fully used when Christ comes again and reigns on earth throughout the Millennium (see D&C 65).

Revelation 12:3–4, 7–17—A Red Dragon with Seven Heads, Ten Horns, and Seven Crowns

The dragon is identified in Revelation 12:9 as Satan, the devil. The heads represent his knowledge, the horns represent his power, and the crowns represent his rule or control over those who allow themselves to be overcome by him. Notice that according to verse 4 he “drew the third part of the stars of heaven.” Modern revelation helps us understand this represents those who followed him in the premortal life and were not permitted to obtain a body and continue their eternal progression (see D&C 29:36–38; Abraham 3:23–28).

Revelation 12:7–11—“War in Heaven”

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he would save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him” (History of the Church, 6:314; see also Moses 4:1–4; Abraham 3:23–28).

The war between good and evil was not over after Satan’s defeat in the premortal life. Revelation 12:17 tells us that he continues to war against the Saints of God (see also D&C 76:28–29). President Ezra Taft Benson said, “We live in that day which John the Revelator foresaw. … Satan is waging war against the members of the Church who have testimonies and are trying to keep the commandments” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 79).

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study Revelation 12.

Activity A iconWhat’s in a Name?

List the five different names or titles referring to Lucifer in Revelation 12:1–10 and explain what each teaches us about him so that we may be warned about him and avoid his influence. You may want to use the Bible Dictionary for help.

Activity B iconReading About Yourself in the Scriptures

  1. 1.

    Revelation 12:7–11 tells about the war in heaven in the premortal life. How could you reasonably assume that you are one of the people referred to in verse 11? (see Abraham 3:23–28).

  2. 2.

    Write a paragraph that explains what you learn about yourself from Revelation 12:11 and how what you did then could help you now.

  3. 3.

    How can you apply these teachings and principles in your life today?

Activity C iconFind Examples

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “all beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181). He also stated, “Wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed” (History of the Church, 4:576). President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, testified that there is “an ample shield against the power of Lucifer and his hosts” (“Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Ensign, Sept. 1995, 7).

Find examples in Revelation 12 that show the truth of what the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Faust said.