Revelation chapter 12 is one chapter which has produced a lot of debate, especially within the last 150 years. This is a chapter, even if you are 100% futurist, that contains certain aspects which cannot be easily explained away by saying its to be yet fulfilled.
Rod, at Adam’s study group blog, Pursuing Truth at 2909, has a study posted of 2 common interpretations of Chapter 12; Futurist and Partial-Preterist.
Another interpretation is more in the line of viewing this chapter as depicting a panorama of history; this is commonly referred to as Historicism
I plan on adding to this post (by editing it later), but in the meantime I want to only post the chapter in-full. Feel free to jump in with your own thoughts pertaining to chapter 12:
1And 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: 2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4And 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. 5And 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. 6And 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.
7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9And 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.
10And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. 13And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14And 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. 15And 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. 16And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17And 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. (KJV)
I wanted to update this with links to a few bible commentary notes on chapter 12. The one’s below are from EWordToday: Classic Bible Commentaries
History’s Most Renowned Commentary Writers
There may be other commentaries added later, so this may end up being part (1) of a two part post.
Matthew Henry Concise Edition:
A description of the church of Christ and of Satan, under the figures of a woman and of a great red dragon. (1-6) Michael and his angels fight against the devil and his angels, who are defeated. (7-12) The dragon persecutes the church. (13,14) His vain endeavours to destroy her, He renews his war against her seed. (14-17)
Verses 1-6: The church, under the emblem of a woman, the mother of believers, was seen by the apostle in vision, in heaven. She was clothed with the sun, justified, sanctified, and shining by union with Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. The moon was under her feet; she was superior to the reflected and feebler light of the revelation made by Moses. Having on her head a crown of twelve stars; the doctrine of the gospel, preached by the twelve apostles, is a crown of glory to all true believers. As in pain to bring forth a holy family; desirous that the conviction of sinners might end in their conversion. A dragon is a known emblem of Satan, and his chief agents, or those who govern for him on earth, at that time the pagan empire of Rome, the city built upon seven hills. As having ten horns, divided into ten kingdoms. Having seven crowns, representing seven forms of government. As drawing with his tail a third part of the stars in heaven, and casting them down to the earth; persecuting and seducing the ministers and teachers. As watchful to crush the Christian religion; but in spite of the opposition of enemies, the church brought forth a manly issue of true and faithful professors, in whom Christ was truly formed anew; even the mystery of Christ, that Son of God who should rule the nations, and in whose right his members partake the same glory. This blessed offspring was protected of God.
Verses 7-11: The attempts of the dragon proved unsuccessful against the church, and fatal to his own interests. The seat of this war was in heaven; in the church of Christ, the kingdom of heaven on earth. The parties were Christ, the great Angel of the covenant, and his faithful followers; and Satan and his instruments. The strength of the church is in having the Lord Jesus for the Captain of their salvation. Pagan idolatry, which was the worship of devils, was cast out of the empire by the spreading of Christianity. The salvation and strength of the church, are only to be ascribed to the King and Head of the church..
Verses 12-17: The church and all her friends might well be called to praise God for deliverance from pagan persecution, though other troubles awaited her. The wilderness is a desolate place, and full of serpents and scorpions, uncomfortable and destitute of provisions; yet a place of safety, as well as where one might be alone. But being thus retired could not protect the woman. The flood of water is explained by many to mean the invasions of barbarians, by which the western empire was overwhelmed; for the heathen encouraged their attacks, in the hope of destroying Christianity. But ungodly men, for their worldly interests, protected the church amidst these tumults, and the overthrow of the empire did not help the cause of idolatry. Or, this may be meant of a flood of error, by which the church of God was in danger of being overwhelmed and carried away. The devil, defeated in his designs upon the church, turns his rage against persons and places. Being faithful to God and Christ, in doctrine, worship, and practice, exposes to the rage of Satan; and will do so till the last enemy shall be destroyed.
John Darby’s Synopsis
The first symbolical person, subject of the prophecy and result of all God’s ways in it, is a woman clothed with the sun, having a crown of twelve stars, and the moon under her feet. It is Israel, or Jerusalem as its centre as in the purpose of God. She is clothed with supreme authority, invested with the glory of perfect administration in man, and all the original reflected glory of this under the old covenant, under her feet. She was travailing in childbirth, distressed, and in pain to be delivered: on the other hand Satan’s power in the form of the Roman Empire, complete in forms of power, seven heads, but incomplete in administrative supremacy-ten, not twelve horns. But Satan, as the open infidel enemy of God and God’s power in Christ, sought to devour the child as soon as born, who was to have the rule of the earth from God. But the child, Christ, and the assembly with Christ, is caught away to God and His throne – does not receive the power yet, but is placed in the very source of it from which it flows. It is not the rapture as regards joy; for it goes back to Christ Himself, but the placing Him and the assembly in and with Him, in the seat from which power flows for the establishment of the kingdom. But the woman-the Jews, after this flies into the wilderness, where God has prepared a place for them, for the half-week.
The assembly, or heavenly saints, (as Christ, note,) go up to heaven to be out of the way. The Jews, or earthly ones, are protected by providential care upon earth. This gives the whole state of things, and those in view in this scene, and their respective places. She that is to have glory and hold power in the earth is cast out. The child that is to have power, in and from heaven, is previously taken up there. This makes the position very clear.
The historical course of events is now pursued, the child being supposed to be already caught up. There is war in heaven; and the devil and his angels are cast out, and have no more place there. This brings out yet more clearly the distinction of the heavenly saints and the Jewish remnant. The heavenly ones had overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony; the woman’s seed have the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, that is, the Spirit of prophecy. What they have of God in the word is according to the Old Testament.
But, to follow up the latter part of the chapter, a loud voice proclaims in heaven that the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ is come-the testimony still of the second Psalm; only as yet it was only proclaimed from heaven, where the power of the kingdom was already made good by the casting down of Satan. Satan’s anti-priestly power was over forever. King and prophet he might yet put on; but his heavenly place was past. The saints of the heavenlies had overcome him by that which made their conscience and their title to heaven good-the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their mouth, God’s sword by the Spirit-and gave up their lives to the death. The heavens and the dwellers there could now rejoice; but it was woe to the inhabiters of earth and sea; for the devil had come down, knowing he had but a little time left. I think verse 11 implies that there are saints killed after the rapture, who yet belong to heaven. If there were such killed because of their faithfulness, were they not taken up, they would lose earth and heaven, though more devoted than those who had earth. We see them moreover in chapter 20 in the first resurrection. The souls under the altar also had to wait for others-their brethren who had to be killed, as they were; and we are to note here that those celebrated as happy are the slain ones, none others. Yet it is before the last three years and a half.
So that we have these three parties in view: the voice of those in heaven; (our) their brethren who had overcome; and those who would be in the three years and a half of Satan’s rage, which had not yet begun. Now, if the man-child in heaven be, as we have considered it, Christ and the raptured saints, the voice would be that of those already there,  and all self evident: the raptured saints associated with Him celebrate the casting down of the accuser and the deliverance of those who belonged to heaven, calling them “our brethren”-the brethren whose conflict with the accuser was over, as he was now cast down, but who had had to resist him as a heavenly potentate, an anti-priest, all which part is mystery for John-and those who now would be in trial, when he would act with rage on earth, as king and prophet. For the dragon, cast to the earth and unable to accuse in heaven or oppose saints having a heavenly calling (and the priesthood refers to such, not to union), persecutes the Jews, and seeks to destroy their testimony; but God gave, not power of resistance-the Lord must come to deliver-but power to flee and escape and find refuge where she was nourished the whole half-week out of the serpent’s reach. He seeks to pursue; wings he has none: but he uses a river, the movements of people under the influence of special motive and guidance, to overwhelm the woman. But the earth, this organized system in which men live, swallowed the waters up. This influence was in vain -was not met by an army, a counter-power, but was nullified. There was such a disposition or course of the earth as neutralized the effort wholly. So God ordered in His providence; and the dragon turned to persecute individually the faithful remnant of the seed-the Jews who held fast by the word.
McGee’s notes begin with some added info worth posting:
Theories of Interpretation
There have been many approaches to this book, but these can be divided into four major systems (Broadus lists seven theories of interpretation; Tragelles lists 3)
1- Preterist Theory: All of Revelation has been fulfilled in the past. It had to do with local references in John’s day. It had to do with the days of either Nero or Domitian. The view was held by Renan and most German scholars, also by Elliott.
2- Historical Theory: Fulfillment of Revelation is going on in history, and Revelation is the prophetic history of the church, according to this theory.
3- Historical-Spiritual Theory: This theory is a refinement of the historical theory and was advanced by Sir William Ramsay. It states that the two beasts are Imperial and Provincial Rome. The point of the book is to encourage Christians. According to this theory, Revelation has been largely fulfilled and there are spiritual lessons for the church today. Amillennialism, for the most part, has adopted this view. It dissipates and defeats the purpose of the book.
4- Futurist Theory: This theory holds that the Book of Revelation is primarily prophetic and yet future, especially from Revelation 4 on to the end of the book.
You notice he only lists 4 views–Below is an excerpt from another view by Duncan McKenzie, based upon Partial-Preterism:
In Revelation chapter 12 it was an aspect of the past, not the future, that was being unveiled to the seven churches. This is an important point to consider because some would maintain that Revelation is only talking about events that were to happen just prior to AD 70. While for the most part this is true, we have an exception to this rule in this chapter. The vision in Revelation 12 goes back to the resurrection of Jesus (around AD 30).
In Revelation chapter 12 a “great sign” appears in heaven. David Chilton commenting on the importance of this sign wrote the following:
St John alerts us from the outset that we must give careful attention to the subject of this vision, for the symbol of the Woman here is a great sign. “Literalists” would have it that the use of this term implies that most of Revelation is to be taken literally. But this is to miss the point. St. John is not saying that this passage, in contrast to the rest of the book, is a “sign,” for he has already told us that the entire book is composed of “signs” (1:1). The point here is that this is a great sign, an important symbol, central to the interpretation of the prophecy as a whole. St. John is telling his readers to think carefully about the Biblical meaning of the sign. The Days of Vengeance, 1987, pg. 297.
Revelation chapter 12 presents us with three main characters; the woman, the male Child and the dragon. We also have three scenes; the birth of the Child (vv. 1-6), the casting of the dragon out of heaven (vv. 7-12), and the dragon making war with the woman and the rest of her children (vv. 13-17).
The male Child who is to “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” is Jesus, the Messiah (Rev. 19:15). The reference to the Messiah ruling over the nations is taken from the second Psalm:
7. declaring the ordinance of the Lord: the Lord said to me, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee. 8. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession. 9. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces as a potter’s vessel. (Septuagint)
Where God (the Father) says, “today I have begotten Thee” (Ps. 2:7) He is talking about when He raised Jesus from the dead, the resurrection. This is discussed in Acts chapter 13:
33. that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.’ 34. “And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken this way; ‘I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY AND SURE BLESSING OF DAVID.’
In Revelation 12 we are being shown this “birthing” of the Messiah. The male Child, after being born, is caught up to God’s throne. Once again what is being shown here is not Jesus being born on earth, but His being “born” when God the Father raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:33). Thus, as soon as the male Child is delivered He is caught up to God’s throne. Jesus referred to the birthing analogy in talking about His death and resurrection in John 16:20-22.
Notice how the dragon (Satan Rev. 12:9) was expecting to devour the male Child. Satan thought he would be destroying Jesus at the cross. Instead the Child is caught up to the throne of God. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God the Father at the resurrection (Acts 2:31-36). Satan, instead of devouring the Child as he had planned, ends up being cast out of heaven.
The woman represents heavenly Jerusalem symbolized as the mother of God’s New Covenant people. This picture is taken from the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah chapter 66 Jerusalem (also referred to as Zion) is pictured as a woman giving birth. Isaiah 66:7-10
Isaiah sees Jerusalem pictured as a woman giving birth to a male child. Just as in Revelation 12 there is first the birth of a male child and then a number of other children. In terms of these other children Isaiah asks the rhetorical question, “Shall a nation be born at once?” The answer is Yes! Again, the other children represent those who were born again to God as a result of Jesus’ victory on the cross. This concept of a “holy nation” is used by Peter in referring to those who have come to faith in Jesus [1 Peter 2:9].
So the woman represents heavenly Jerusalem pictured as the “mother” of the New Covenant people. The male Child represents the Messiah as the first born of this Covenant. The rest of the children represent those who had been born again by way of the New Covenant.
That the woman is both the mother of the Messiah (the Child who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron v. 5) and believers in Jesus (those who have the testimony of Jesus v. 17) speaks of the continuity of God’s Covenant. Those who are believers in Jesus have been grafted into the tree of Israel (Romans 11). We are Abraham’s offspring (Galatians 3:7&29). The true Jew is one who has been circumcised in his heart by the Spirit of God (Romans 2:28&29). When Simeon blessed the Child Jesus he prophesied “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). The fall would involve those Jews who rejected Jesus; the rise would involve those Gentiles who believed on Him. (more here)