Revelation 12:16 “And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.”
This line in Revelation 12 has been interpreted slightly different by multiple scholars, and myself have a similar interpretation, and I feel by examining them all we get a good, general idea of what was meant here.
For starters, we know the “woman” is Israel, and I believe the earth is exactly as written and represents mankind in general and the world we live in, and we know the “flood” that the dragon cast out of his mouth is the devil and his false doctrines that are infiltrating the world, such as the New Age, appearing as Christianity but ultimately being a doctrine of demons.
I believe this means that the earth, mankind, will help Israel, whether purposely or not, by absorbing many of these blows that the devil ultimately wants to use to destroy Israel, and ultimately completely in the end. We have a reference in Numbers for when something similar happened to the men Korah, Dathan an Abiram (if you don’t recall this history, Dathan and his brother Abiram, were among the quarrelsome persons in Egypt and in the wilderness who sought, on every occasion, to place difficulties in the way of Moses, and Korah, another similar person, led a revolt against Moses during the same time):
Numbers 16:30 (KJV): But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.
Now, this is where some scholars are split - is this reference in Revelation a direct link back to Numbers, or is it just using similar wording to portray a continued theme in Revelation 12, or are is talking about false doctrines then and now? I err on a more whole opinion that is purposely was written to make you consider all things, continuing a theme in Revelation 12 of mixing foreshadow with current and past timelines as we have seen already. It makes the most sense grammatically and towards what was already discussed in Revelation 12 thus far, and I believe the purpose was to draw a comparison of something that happened already to give us an idea of how it will happen again when it involves satan himself, but it helps to understand all aspects anyway for a full and complete understanding. I for sure would want to know what it means to be swallowed up by the earth for doing something wrong ahead of time instead of right at the end of my studies!
If it is indeed talking about the Arians as in Numbers, we must understand that the controversy involving them was a series of Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversies concerned the relationship between God the Father and God the Son - Arians believed that since there was only one God, Jesus was not exactly the same as God. First there was God, and then a little later He made Jesus, which goes against core Christian doctrine and what Jesus said. This led to a belief called Arianism. You can imagine how much strife this caused, and still causes today, as some alternate forms of Christianity still hold on to this belief. The Romans in particular did not agree with this and sought to destroy this movement.
If the “flood” in Revelation 12:16 refers to the Arian persecution, then the earth helping the woman, the church, and swallowing up this flood, may refer to the Goths (The Goths were a nomadic Germanic people who fought against Roman rule in the late 300s and early 400s A.D., helping to bring about the downfall of the Roman Empire, which had controlled much of Europe for centuries. The ascendancy of the Goths is said to have marked the beginning of the medieval period in Europe.), who broke into the Roman provinces, under their king, Athanaricus, and fell upon the Arians and infested the Roman provinces, which were nearby, after which they seized upon Thrace. Flavius Valens, Roman Emperor at the time, being alarmed by these things, stopped persecuting the Arians, and instead went to Constantinople to form measures for waging war against the Goths. Thus, the earth helped the woman.
Do you see that? A side situation, the Roman’s persecution of another people, the Arians, who were against the core doctrine of Jesus, helped take heat off of the persecution of Christianity, despite the Christians conflict with the Romans throughout these times, which is why I personally believe when this verse speaks of the earth it can mean just about all of mankind or any people on earth. Another way to think about it, it is sort of how if you ever find yourself in trouble in life or in a situation, perhaps at work or in a relationship, but someone else nearby did something so much vastly worse that it overshadowed your mistake and took the blame and heat off of you for a time or maybe completely.
But if, by the flood, it means the errors, heresies and false doctrines in general of those times, as we still see exist and grow today, then the greater councils may be intended by the “earth”, which in retrospect still encompasses my idea that they meant any and all of mankind on earth will help at some point swallow up the devil’s plan, whether by participating in it and watering it down for directly whom he is attacking, possibly creating an innumerable amount of side situations and distractions such as what happened with the Romans persecuting the Arians, or by standing against it, and the totality of all of this watering down the devil’s direct attack on Israel and Christianity as a whole.
We could go on and on with this, and there is just so much history and events yet to happen to analyze that I feel it is best to get a core understanding of how it all works together and what to be weary of rather than stress to find every single historical event that may be a reference to this happening or try to predict what will happen in the future regarding the devils attack, but I feel this brief breakdown of just one side of the story helps in overall understanding.
Revelation 12:17 “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.”
This final verse in Revelation 12 is rather cut and dry - Satan will turn his full rage against every follower of Jesus, no matter who you are or where you are located. One key word to notice here, however, is “remnant”. Defined, it means a “small remaining quantity of something”. And the “seed” is a reference to Jesus. So - we can clearly see that Satan will make war with the last remaining Christians and followers of Jesus during this time, and it seem that the number of these people left will be small.
This remnant of remaining faithful servants to Jesus are the last few who have not fallen for the devil’s false doctrines - which include perverted versions of Christianity. This will be a trying time indeed, and unfortunately we can see it happening already in the world. Christianity still dominates the world religion statistics, but how much of it is still core doctrine and core Christianity, and not some New Age or modified personal distortion of it all? It is of utmost importance to find a home church that follows the Bible exclusively and teaches from it.