Saturday, 19 August 2017 07:32

78. A woman, a dragon and a child: the first sign * Revelation 12:1-2 PART 1 of 3

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1  And there appeared a great sign in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2  And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

 

PART 1 - The woman

 

*** Background ***: The first half of the book of Revelation deals with the events from Christ’s resurrection to the time of the His Second Coming. Over the past 73 lessons, we have been covering the first 11 chapters of the book. The Bible presents the history of the world from different angles. It focuses on the spiritual point of view of History. We are now going to start the second half of Revelation. Chapters 12 to 22 will show us what was contained in the little scroll of Revelation 10 (see studies #66 to #69 for details). The contents of the little scroll zoom in on what will happen during the end times. Revelation 11:18 gives us the summary of what is to come in the second half of the book of Revelation: “And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward unto your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great; and should destroy them who destroy the earth." As Dr. Stefanovic pointed out in his commentary, there are 5 main topics in Revelation 11:18 that introduce what will be discussed in Revelation 12 to 22:5:

1) The nations were angry; 2) your wrath is come; 3) the time of the dead to be judged; 4) the time to give the reward to God’s servants; 5) the time to destroy those who destroy the earth. Revelation chapters 12 to 14 deal with the first topic “the nations were angry”. This anger is reflected in how Satan and his agents work to oppose God’s people.

*** The first sign: a woman ***: Both the first and second halves of Revelation start out by including a word that is key for the interpretation of the book. In Revelation 12:1, we see the Greek word sēmeion, which is the noun related to the verb sémainó (used in Revelation 1:1). The noun sēmeion means a sign or a mark. It is a symbol. We first saw the verb form of this word in Revelation 1:1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John”. The translated word used is signified. This word is a very important clue as to how we should understand all the imagery that is contained within the message. The information is being passed along in a symbolic language. The term here refers to extraordinary events being described in chapter 12.

John starts chapter 12 by stating that he was seeing an unusual and impactful scene: an exceptional woman. Many Christians may think that this woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus, but as we will see in this study, the woman is the symbol for something else, in the same manner as the dragon is a symbol for Satan (Revelation 12:3). As we’ve discussed several times throughout our studies so far, in Bible analogies, the term woman is used as a symbol for the Old or New Testament church (Jeremiah 6:2; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 54:5-6; Ezekiel 16:8-14; Hosea 2:14-23; Amos 5:2; Jeremiah 3:20; Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:2-13; Ezekiel 16:15-19; Ezekiel 16:32; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 12:1-6; Revelation 19:7-8). When the Bible talks about a faithful woman, it is a reference to the faithful church. Similarly, an unfaithful woman is a reference to an unfaithful church. Isaiah 26:17 compares the ancient Israel to a pregnant woman: “Like a woman with child, that draws near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and cries out in her pangs; so have we been in your sight, O LORD.Micah 4:10 also compares ancient Israel with a travailing woman: “Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shall you go forth out of the city, and you shall dwell in the field, and you shall go even to Babylon; there shall you be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem you from the hand of your enemies.” (See also Isaiah 66:7-9; Jeremiah 4:31).

We can’t ignore the fact that this text about the woman of Revelation 12 comes soon after the text about the two witnesses. As we’ve seen in studies #72 to #77, the two witnesses are a symbol for the Bible and the Church. In this way, the woman of Revelation 12 is also linked to the two witnesses, because the two witnesses are the faithful woman actively spreading the Gospel. Just like the two witnesses, the woman of Revelation 12 goes through a period of hardship lasting 1260 days (Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6). This is another indication that the woman of Revelation 12 cannot be a real person, such as Mary, because the Bible never mentioned such a period in Mary’s life. Moreover, Revelation 12:17 says that some time later, the dragon went on to fight with the remnant of the woman. This emphasizes the symbolic nature of the term ‘woman’. The two signs in Heaven seen in Revelation 12 follow a pattern: John sees a symbol; he describes the symbol and the situation in which the symbol is found:

 
A sign in Heaven (the symbol)
A woman
A red dragon
Description
Clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars
Having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads
Situation
Pregnant, about to give birth, going through labor pains
His tail drew the third part of the stars of Heaven and did cast them to the earth

 

The 1st century Christians were familiar with the symbolic description of God’s people as the bride of Christ. This concept is also present in the Old and the New Testaments: “For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called." (Isaiah 54:5); “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." (Galatians 4:26). The Church is, at the same time the mother of the Messiah and His bride. Specifically, Revelation 12 refers to Israel. Jesus was born as a jew, from the tribe of Judah. Jesus came to Earth as a human being, in order to save His own people and restore them to the Father.

*** What she was wearing ***: There are three elements about the woman's outfit: what was on her body, under her feet, and on her head. Note that we have the description of what she is wearing from head to toe. She has a complete outfit. The symbols used to describe her outfit (sun, moon, and stars) often appear together in the Bible. One example is Joseph’s dream about his parents and his brothers (Genesis 37:9). Another example is the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:16). The woman's outfit reflects who she thinks is the source of Truth and Salvation: Jesus Christ.

- Clothed with the sun: The garments the woman was wearing reminds us of the description of Jesus at the mount of the transfiguration, where Elijah and Moses appeared next to Him: “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his clothing was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2). Her description also reminds us of Salomon’s bride, who was pure as the sun and as beautiful as the moon (Song of Solomon 6:10). Jesus is the one who provides pure and righteous robes for those who overcome (Revelation 3:5, see also Zachariah 3:4-5). The woman of Revelation 12 is the faithful Israel Church.

- Moon under her feet: The moon does not have its own light, but it does reflect the light of the sun. The woman of Revelation 12, or faithful church, is standing firmly on the moon. The Bible tells us this about the scripture: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105). Here we have the second aspect of the two witnesses that we saw in Revelation 11:1-14. The woman of Revelation 12 carries the same attributes as the two witnesses did. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (See also Revelation 1:16).

- Crown of 12 stars on her head: as we’ve seen in previous studies, the number 12 represents the church at any given point in time. In our study #47, we saw that the number 12 is a number that appears both in the Old and New Testaments, and it is always linked to the people of God. The Bible mentions 12 patriarchs from Seth to Noah, then 12 patriarchs from Shem to Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 spies sent to find the promised land, 12 judges (from Othniel to Samuel), 12 disciples, 12 gates in the New Jerusalem that are named after the 12 tribes, and its 12 foundations which have the names of the 12 apostles. Ephesians 2:20 also mentions that the church is built on the foundation of the 12 apostles and the prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. The woman of Revelation 12 has on her head a crown of 12 stars. The Greek word for crown used here is stephanos. The stephanos crown is the crown of victory used in Greek times to celebrate athlete winners. The stephanos crown is different than the royal crown. The royal crown is called diadem in Revelation (Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 19:12).

*** Her situation ***: The woman was pregnant, about to give birth, already travailing with birthing pains (Revelation 12:2). Looking from the perspective that we are talking about God’s chosen people, represented here by the woman, we can clearly see that she is the fulfillment of the promise God gave Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden.God turned to the serpent and said: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). This verse may seem a little complicated to understand at first, but let’s look closely to what it is saying: “And [God] will put enmity between [the serpent] and the woman, and between [the serpent’s] seed and her seed; [her male child] shall bruise [the serpent’s] head, and [the serpent] shall bruise [the child’s] heel.” This was the first promise of a Savior given to humanity. From that point on, God’s people began to wait for a male child that would smash sin in a deadly way. Out of God’s people, the Messiah would come (Acts 13:23). Revelation 22:16 is the key verse to understand the woman’s pregnancy, and who her child is: “I Jesus have sent my angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Jesus is the offspring of His people, the Church. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). At the same time, He is the root of the Church. The Church exists because of Christ.

*** Overview ***: Revelation 12 marks the portion of the book of Revelation the deals specifically with end-times events. It starts by giving the reader a brief background of who the main characters are: God’s people, God’s enemy, and Jesus Christ. The narrative flows from the perspective of God’s people, symbolized by a pregnant woman. This woman was unlike any other. She was dressed in righteous robes and stood firmly on the Word of God. She had the victory crown promised to God’s faithful people. Once again, the Bible and God's people are linked together. We first saw a hint of that link in Revelation 1:3: we will receive a special blessing when we read, hear and keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Out of the Israel Church, came the Messiah. Jesus is Emmanuel which means God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus became a man to save us from Sin. All three characters of Revelation 12 are portrayed in John chapter 1:1-18. Jesus is the Light, the Word who became flesh, whom the world rejected. He shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome the Light. His servant (John the Baptist, representing the Church’s mission) was called to preach about this light to the world as a witness to mankind. “[Jesus] came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God, even to them that believed on His name”. (John 1:12).

   
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