The key characters of Revelation 12 are:
- a woman
- a child
- the dragon
Here we see them introduced in the first three verses of the chapter. The dragon is the easiest to identify. He is the devil. Revelation 12:9 tells us, "the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world."
The woman (though this is denied by some) must be the nation of Israel. Her connection with the sun, moon, and twelve stars is a direct reference to the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37:9-11 where the original family of Israel is identified as a sun, moon, and twelve stars.
The woman "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" (Revelation 12:5). Though some see a special tribulation birth in this, I cannot see this. The One who will rule all nations with a rod of iron is clearly identified in scripture as the Lord Jesus Christ. We see this in Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; and, Revelation 19:15. To make this refer to someone other than Christ flies in the face of these verses. And, the man child being Jesus further supports the woman being the nation of Israel.
In what is clearly the last half of the tribulation (called the great tribulation), "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" (Revelation 12:6). The number of days in this passage - 1290 days - is equivalent to 3 1/2 years and this is also the meaning of "a time, and times, and half a time" in verse 14. Matthew 24:15-22 refers to the time of the abomination of desolation and the need for Israel at this time to flee into the mountains (the wilderness) because it is a time of "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21). This perfectly matches the woman fleeing into the wilderness in Revelation 12. The abomination of desolation is the time when the antichrist will go into the temple in Jerusalem and declare himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). It is also the time when he breaks his covenant with Israel (proving it to be a covenant of death - Isaiah 28:15-19) and he earnestly seeks to totally destroy the people of Israel - the final final solution.
The children of Israel flee to the wilderness and hide there in a place prepared by God (Revelation 12:6). She is "given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place" (Revelation 12:14). We can only speculate about the two wings of a great eagle. Many have looked at some sort of air force. I do not know. Many prophecy teachers identify the place as Petra. I am not personally convinced that this is the place prepared by God. Really, it does not matter. According to Jeremiah 31:1-2, "The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest." What a sweet sound! Grace in the wilderness.
The devil attempts to destroy the woman by a flood of waters out of his mouth, but the earth opens her mouth and swallows the waters of the flood (Revelation 12:15-16). Is this a diverted lake? Is is something else? I do not know. We can get the general picture of these prophecies and understand the teaching, but sometimes the particulars of the fulfillment can only be seen after the fact. That is one of the special features of much of the prophecy found in the Bible. We can see where it is heading, but full clarity comes after fulfillment. However, when the prophecy is fulfilled, we can see that only divine foreknowledge could have prophesied the event in such detail. What a God!
The devil continues to make war with the faithful seed of Israel (Revelation 12:17) until the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the battle of Armageddon and destroys the armies of the devil (Revelation 17:14; 19:19-20). Then, the remnant of Israel will be received into their promised kingdom on earth. God will fulfill all His promises. Israel will have her kingdom.