(Revelation 12:1) And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
This image occurs in heaven. If we interpret the Bible literally then we must assume that there is a woman in heaven with these characteristics. Many fundamentalist evangelical Protestants who claim to interpret the Bible literally actually interpret it figuratively when it suits them. This passage is an example of this.
The word "woman" is used by Jesus of Mary.
This woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus (see comments on 12:5. Notice that she is in heaven and that she has a crown. She is the queen mother of Jesus (For Old Testament references of the queen mother see 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 10:13, 2 Chronicles 15:16, Jeremiah 13:18; 29:2).
There is a similarity with Joseph's second dream in which he foretells that he would rule over his family after becoming regent of Egypt.
(Genesis 37:9) And he [Joseph] dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
Taken literally, Revelation 12:1 strongly supports the Catholic doctrine that Mary is the Queen of Heaven.
(Revelation 12:2) And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
Certainly this fits Mary.
(Revelation 12:3) And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
This great red dragon is Satan (see verse 9).
(Revelation 12:4) And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
Satan attempted to destroy Jesus soon after his birth but Joseph was warned to flee into Egypt. Herod was doing this in the physical realm but Satan was empowering Herod from the spiritual realm. It is literally true to state that Satan was doing it even though Herod committed the act.
(Matthew 2:13) And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
(Matthew 2:16) Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Note that Satan casts a third of the stars to earth before the birth of Jesus. Some additional verses about Satan being cast out of heaven:
(Luke 10:18) And he [Jesus] said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
(Isaiah 14:12) How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
(2 Peter 2:4) For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.
Satan is cast down three times:
(Revelation 20:1-3) And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
(Revelation 12:5) And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
This refers to Jesus.
Mary is the one referred to by the word "woman".
(Revelation 12:6) And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
Perhaps Mary was one of those who fled from Jerusalem to Pella after 66 A.D. before the Romans began the seige on Jerusalem. Perhaps the apostle John also went to Pella at the same time before taking Mary to Ephesus with him.
From verse 13 we see that Satan is trying to destroy not just Jesus but also Mary. From verse 5 we see that Mary fled into the wilderness after Jesus was no longer on the scene.
Protestant fundamentalists typically ignore this verse or interpret it allegorically. I see no reason to do either.
(Revelation 12:9) And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
The dragon of Revelation chapter 12 is Satan.
(Revelation 12:13) And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
In verse 13 we now turn our attention to Satan. These events occurred chronologically after those of verse 5. It is Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven that resulted in Satan being expelled from heaven.
Note that both places are in the spiritual realm. The heaven that Satan was expelled from is in the spiritual realm and the "earth" that he was cast down to is also in the spiritual realm. Thus we see that for every object in the physical realm there is a corresponding object in the spiritual realm and these objects interact in some way. Thus, when Satan perform actions affecting the spiritual earth, there are corresponding effects on the physical earth.
(Revelation 12:14) And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
This is merely another description of the events of verse 6 but now we see them as occurring in the spiritual realm. In verse 6, Mary leaves Jerusalem and escapes to Pella; in verse 14 in the spiritual realm she flies in the wilderness with wings.
Symbols in the spiritual realm have tangible existence, they are not merely abstract constructs of the mind. This is why symbols in our dreams seem so real — because they are. When we dream when asleep we are experiencing our spiritual self interacting in the spiritual realm.
(Revelation 12:15) And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
The serpent is Satan who is a spirit creature. The water that comes from the mouth of Satan is water in the spiritual realm, not the physical realm.
(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.
The earth referred to here is not the physical earth but a spiritual replica of the earth in the spiritual realm. Every kind of object in the physical world has a corresponding spirit object in the spiritual realm.
(Daniel 10:13) But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me [an angel] one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
Notice there is a Persia in the spiritual realm and that there is a spiritual battle in the spiritual realm and that this battle affects events here in the physical realm. The unclean spirits like frogs is another example of references to the workings in the spiritual realm. The book of Revelation has a lot of references of this sort.
(Revelation 16:13,14) And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
(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.
Satan was at enmity with the woman, with Mary and was also at enmity with the remnant of her seed, of her descendents. In becoming adopted children of God through faith in Jesus, Christians become descendents of Mary, the woman of Genesis 3:15. This is what it means to say that Mary is the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate. Satan certainly considered her to be worthy of being an enemy of.
Sequence of events: