I can’t find any satisfactory explanation of Revelation 12 – where Jesus is seemingly born in the middle of the tribulation. So apparently it’s not a linear book.. What does this story of the woman and the dragon have to do with the larger teaching of Revelation?
I believe the Revelation is by and large a linear book, but with several summary passages that put things into a historical perspective. Rev. 12 is one such summary. It takes the reader through the history of the animosity between Satan and God’s people, and explains why he’s so enraged at being cast out of heaven at the beginning (not the middle) of the Great Tribulation.
When studying the book of Revelation it helps to realize that out of its 404 verses, 280 are basically quotes from the Old Testament. Therefore, having a good command of the Old Testament makes understanding the Revelation much easier. As an example, an adaptation of the woman in Rev. 12:1 first appears in Genesis 37:9-11 in one of Joseph’s dreams where he is the ruler over his brothers. (This is one of the many places in Genesis where Joseph serves as a type of the Messiah.) In Rev. 12:2 the woman is personified as Mary, the Lord’s mother. Put the two together and you realize the woman represents Israel who gave birth to the Messiah.
Beginning in verse 3 we see Satan’s fall, in which he was joined by 1/3 of the angelic host, and his attempt to prevent the Messiah from fulfilling His role as our redeemer. Having been the real leader of the plot to have Jesus killed, he was caught off guard by the resurrection, which turned what he thought would be his greatest victory into a resounding defeat.
Verse 6 is an account of the believing remnant of Israel heeding the Lord’s call to flee from their homes when they see the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15-21) because that will be the sign that the Great Tribulation has begun. At that time Satan will finally be expelled from Heaven and confined to Earth to begin the epic battle against God and His people we know as the Great Tribulation. This battle is described in Rev. 13-19 .