Understanding Revelation / Chapter 9 — Rich Kelsey

Understanding Revelation

Chapter 9 The Woman of Revelation 12:

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” (Revelation 12:1–2)

Scriptural Indications of the Woman’s Symbolism:

The Woman is clothed with the sun[1], Jesus Christ.[2] The moon is under her feet, Old Testament law and ritual. She has on her head a crown of twelve stars; Christians are promised a crown.[3]

The number twelve is used in scripture to illustrate both[4] Israel[5] of old, and the New Testament Church.[6] Stars are symbolic of people,[7] and angels.[8] Apparently this is an illustration of the heavenly Church because the woman is illustrated with heavenly symbols (verse 1). The word heaven is used twice in the text: once to describe where the woman is, and another time to describe where Satan is (verses 1 and 3). And Satan, who is standing in front of her, has yet to be hurled down to earth (verses 4 and 9).

The Concise Matthew Henry Commentary:

“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.”

Revelation 12 Continued:

“The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” (Revelation 12: 4–5a)

Notice the term

“iron scepter”

in Revelation 12:5.

There is a parallel verse which also contains the words

“iron scepter.”

“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—’He will rule them with an iron scepter.'” (Revelation 2:26–27)

Comparing these verses indicates the male child in Revelation 12 who

“will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Revelation 2:26–27)

is an illustration of overcoming Christians. Nevertheless, some authors and ministers claim this male child is limited in scope to Jesus Christ alone, because elsewhere in the Bible, it’s written that he will rule the nations

“with an iron scepter.”[9]

And, Jesus shall rule the nations just as the Bible claims he will; yet, so will the overcoming saints who Jesus Christ shares his kingdom with.

A Male Child:

On this subject of Revelation’s male child, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible reads:

“Not Christ, literally and personally considered, or Christ in his human nature, as made of a woman, and born of a virgin, which was a fact that had been years ago; but Christ mystically, or Christ in his members, who are called by his name, because he is formed in them, and they are the seed of the woman, the church.”

Since the Church is illustrated as a woman in some scriptures, her seed being portrayed as a male child only makes sense. [10]

What troubles some Bible teachers about deeming this male child in Revelation is anything other than Jesus Christ is that it makes so much sense to them that it is Christ. After all, Jesus was a child at one time, and he was born of a woman. Yet there are certain qualifying factors in our text that will not fit this view.

An angel told John that events he was about to record would take place[11] in the future. The year A.D. 96 is commonly accepted as the year in which the Apostle John received a vision and penned Revelation’s pages. If what the angel said is true, the events in chapter 12 should be fulfilled after the angel spoke to John, not before! Yet Jesus was born over ninety years before John’s vision.

Also, if Jesus was the child in our text, then the woman must have been either Mary or Israel.

In the Commentary of Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, it’s written:

“The woman cannot mean, literally, the virgin mother of Jesus, for she did not flee into the wilderness and stay there for 1260 days, while the dragon persecuted the remnant of her seed.” (Revelation 12:13–17 KJV)

Neither did Israel.

Let’s look further into the context of verse Revelation 12:5.

“And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” (Revelation 12:5b)

Jesus was a fully grown man when he ascended up to heaven; he was not a child. Yet our passage reads,

“Her child was snatched up.”

In the original Greek language which Revelation was penned, the direction to the throne is not the focus. Instead of saying her child was

“snatched up,”

another possible interpretation could read: her child,

“was seized toward the throne.”

The Emphasized Bible by Rotherham states it this way:

“Her child was caught away unto God and unto his throne.” (Revelation 12:5b)

This seizing of a body of overcoming Christians to the throne of God could have something to do with a change in the heavenly order. And, it could refer to Christians who have already passed from this life into the heavenly realm through death’s door. After all, most of the groups in Revelation’s pages are speaking of people who have already died; such as the souls under the altar[12] in Revelation chapter 6.

As Satan is cast down, a loud voice from heaven exclaims,

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10)

The term

“now”

indicates a specific point in time. Another passage in Revelation which contains the word now has similar connotations:

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'” (Revelation 14:13)

Revelation 12 Continued — War in Heaven:

“Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Revelation 12:7–9)

Usually, wars are fought over authority and dominion. This is what this war in heaven is about. As Jesus continues to break open the wax seals on Revelation’s mortgage scroll, a battle commences. The position of authority and dominion that Satan and his angels once held is transferred over to Christ and his church. Satan and his angels are driven out of heaven. As they find themselves banished to the earth, and realizing that they have little time left,[13] they strike back at the woman’s offspring on earth.

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17)

Mental Gymnastics:

Now that we’ve considered a balanced view of Revelation’s twelfth chapter, let’s bring into light a position that doesn’t fit Revelation’s general tenor well. Since the truth can stand up to investigation, let’s give this doctrine a fair hearing. There are authors and teachers who believe the catching away of a body of believers to God’s throne in Revelation 12 is the bodily resurrection and rapture of the church. In order to maintain this position, one must perform some difficult mental gymnastics, because it’s impossible to harmonize this view with the scriptural doctrine of a last-trumpet rapture.

Also, those who claim that Revelation’s illustration of a male child being caught up to God’s throne is the rapture also claim that the rest of the woman’s offspring were unworthy to be taken in the rapture, either because they converted to Christianity after the rapture took place, or because they were only lukewarm in their commitment to Christ at the time of the rapture. Yet neither of these explanations seems adequate, because the word usage in the text points to a very strong dedication to Jesus. The rest of her offspring are described as,

“… those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17)

Is this really the type of people that Jesus will leave behind?

Let’s consider another possibility, perhaps these Christians are seen on the earth because at this point in time the rapture hasn’t happened yet. And, Revelation chapter 12 is showing us a contrast between the living church and those who have already passed on: the Church in heaven.

“[Revelation’s martyrs] were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (Revelation 6:11)

Revelation 12 Continued:

“The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.” (Revelation 12:14)

The words

“she might fly to”

is very likely speaking of Christians who are still alive yet will die[14] in the days ahead.

A Solitary Place:

The word “desert” in Revelation 12:14 comes from the Greek eremos, meaning lonesome; it can be properly translated “desert,” “desolate,” “solitary,” or “wilderness.” Some authors and teachers believe this desert is speaking figuratively of the United States of America and that Christians from all over the world will come to the United States for safety in this time of trouble. Others claim Revelation’s desert is a literal desert on earth located “in Petra”[15] and that Jewish[16] people who have found Christ will go there to hide from Antichrist’s rage during the tribulation.

However, Revelation’s twelfth chapter is highly symbolic, it speaks of a woman, which is an illustration of something other than a literal woman. The sun in that chapter does not represent our literal sun. The moon, stars, and serpent point to things other than a literal moon, stars, or serpent. So we wouldn’t necessarily violate sound methods of Bible interpretation to look for a figurative meaning for the desert in the same chapter.

Revelation 12 Continued:

“From his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.” (Revelation 12:15–16)

Elsewhere in the Bible water[17] like a river has been used as an illustration of a spiritual nature. Could the earth opening its mouth and swallowing the river be another way of saying that the spiritual nature Satan manifests cannot get to where the woman is? We know that Satan has already been banished to the earth by the time verse 14 is mentioned, so here’s a possibility. The solitary place the Church will be protected in is an illustration of heaven, and the pathway to this solitary place is through death’s door.

Revelation’s Martyrs Died for Their Testimony:

Please notice that the word “testimony” is used in verses speak­ing of Revelation’s martyrs; here are a few examples:

1.   “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” (Revelation 6:9)

2.   “Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and over­power and kill them.” (Revelation 11:7)

3.   “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!” (Revelation 12:11–12)

This last verse gives a strong indication that these people have died because the word “death” is used in the text; also, the word usage,

“… rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them” (Revelation 12:11–12)

indicates they are in heaven. Many people shall die in the three-and-a-half-year period that Antichrist reigns. And when they die, their spirits will ascend to heaven.

In any war there are casualties. Looking into the history of the early church will demonstrate that multitudes died for the word of their testimony. Many were fed to the lions. Many were burned at the stake. Those Christians did not die in vain; they took a stand in life that had eternal consequences. They held the word of God high as a standard to be abided by at any expense. So shall it be at the end of this age. Once more God’s people shall face persecution and once more multitudes shall die for the Christian faith.


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Endnotes:

[1] “In the metaphorical language of Scripture the sun is emblematic of the law of God, Ps. 19:7, of the cheering presence of God, Ps. 84:11, of the person of the Saviour, John 1:9; Mal. 4:2, and of the glory and purity of heavenly beings. Rev. 1:16; 10:1; 12:1.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

[2] “His [Christ’s] face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:16)

[3] “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7–8)

[4] “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)

[5] “He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the moun­tain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Exodus 24:12)

[6] Revelation 22:2

[7] “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Danial 12:3)

[8] “O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God.'” (Isaiah 14:12–13)

[9] “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Revelation 19:15, & Psalm 2:9)

[10] In Hebrew tradition, the first-born male was the one who succeeded his father in position, and if his father was a king, he was made ruler over his kingdom.

[11] “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Revelation 4:1)

[12] “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?’ And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also.” (Revelation 6:9-11)

[13] “He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12b)

[14] “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

[15] (The Apocalyptic Prophecy, David Yonggi Cho, Creation House, 1998, p. 184)

[16] “The Jews who believed in Jesus will be transported by God to Petra.” (The Apocalyptic Prophecy, David Yonggi Cho, Creation House, 1998, p. 186)

[17] “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)