Revelation 12 received particular attention from Joseph Smith as he undertook his inspired translation of the King James Version of the Bible: the Prophet changed 95 percent of the verses. First, in verse 1, John sees a great sign in heaven, “in the likeness of things on the earth” (JST, Revelation 12:1). A woman, representing the Church of God in the meridian dispensation, is seen by John (JST, Revelation 12:7). She is “clothed with the sun” (v. 1), which is descriptive of the Church of the Lamb in all its glory, power, and perfection, a church which works to prepare its members for the glory of the sun (Son). This woman also has “the moon under her feet” (v. 1), indicating that the churches of the world (terrestrial ones—like unto the moon) are lower in glory or beneath the true church of the Lamb. Upon the head of the woman, or church of God, is a crown of twelve stars, depicting, undoubtedly, the twelve Apostles of the Lamb, placed at the head of the Church.
John beholds that the woman brings forth a man-child, “who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (v. 5) or iron rod—the word of God (see 1 Nephi 11:25). This man-child was the political kingdom of God, which could have been established in the meridian of time and could have helped to usher in millennial government. It is called “the kingdom of our God and his Christ” (JST, Revelation 12:7). The power of the adversary is great, however, and the political program of the kingdom in its fulness is not put in place. Hence John speaks of the child being “caught up unto God, and to his throne” (v. 5). President John Taylor taught the important principle here under consideration—that the Church of God (spiritual) gives birth to the larger kingdom of God (political):
“We talk sometimes about the Church of God, and why? We talk about the kingdom of God, and why? Because, before there could be a kingdom of God, there must be a Church of God, and hence the first principles of the Gospel were needed to be preached to all nations, as they were formerly when the Lord Jesus Christ and others made their appearance on the earth. And why so? Because of the impossibility of introducing the law of God among a people who would not be subject to and guided by the spirit of revelation.”
A “great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (v. 3), probably representing the Roman Empire (see details in Revelation 13), wages war against the woman and, after much persecution, drives the woman into the wilderness, or the Church into a state of apostasy (see also D&C 86:3). The Lord removes his Church from the earth speedily, or as John stated, “to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness” (v. 14). There she is to remain 1,260 years or, stated another way, “a time [360 years], and times [360 x 2 = 720 years], and half a time [180 years]” (v. 14; see also JST, Revelation 12:5). Satan hates the Church and continues to wage war against “the remnant of her seed” (v. 17), the latter-day Church restored through Joseph Smith.
What is the origin of evil in the world? John answers this question through an interpolative group of verses in the middle of Revelation 12. The war between good and evil began in the premortal existence in what we know as the War in Heaven. John teaches, “And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael” (JST, Revelation 12:6).
Next, John ties that first battle against evil with the battle waged in the meridian of time with this statement: “And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ” (JST, Revelation 12:7; emphasis added). We learn in modern revelation that the devil rebelled against God, saying, “Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of [their improper exercise of] their agency; and they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; and, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell” (D&C 29:36–38; see also 76:25–30; Moses 4:1–4; Abraham 3:27–28).
The Prophet Joseph stated: “The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could 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.” Indeed, as John attests, the armies of Michael overcame Lucifer and his hosts “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death” (JST, v. 11).