"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman . . . . And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon. . . . and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And 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." (Rev. 12:1-5)
We just said that the woman
would not be Mary, 1201f. Now it looks like
she is Mary. In considering symbols, we ask, What would the Bible reader,
or the person with a knowledge of Bible stories think of? The experience
of Joseph and Mary looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem comes to mind.
But the special woman of the Bible is Christ's true followers as we see
again in chapter 19, r19b.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev. 19:7, 8)
Can the woman be both Mary and the wife of Christ? We'll see
What do the cry and the pain represent?
As a symbol, a cry is an announcement. God had made the time of the Messiah very clear in Daniel 9 and elsewhere, but His professed people were in darkness then just as they will be when He comes the second time.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:8-11).
The more significant cry, however was not the announcement of His birth but the announcement of the beginning of His ministry:
"He [John the Baptist] said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]." (John 1:23)
Pain: In Isa. 59:9-15 we see the transgression of God's people, and justice or truth fallen in the street (clue also for the two witnesses). But there was hope. In verse 20 we see the promise of the Redeemer. Continuing to read on we find the light bursting forth (Isa. 60:1-3) at a time when the people are covered with "gross darkness." For several hundred years after the last book of the Old Testament, there was no prophetic voice. Jesus was born at a time of deepening apostasy. He was born into a dark and hostile world (Compare Joel 2:17). Thus the "pain" associated with His birth.
Dragon and child
Let's take a close look at the picture. We noted that this chapter shows the conflict between the dragon and the woman. We concluded that the woman represents God's people. Here we see that the dragon wants to eat her child. The child would be Christ. The fact that He was caught up to God's throne escaping the dragon's evil plan shows that, in the rest of the chapter, the dragon is taking his hatred out on the mother who is left behind. Why would he be so angry with Christ? We'll see a little later.
Is the baby really Jesus?
The text seems clear to me that the baby the dragon tried to devour represents Christ. However, when I wrote to a listserve on this topic a few years ago someone objected. Listen to his argument and my explanation if you are interested. Otherwise, jump to comments on verse 3 0301a.
The basic argument
against the baby being Jesus (a position differing from mine)
"In Rev. 11:14, the seventh trumpet sounds. We then read in verse 18, 'And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great;...' This clearly refers to the resurrection of the dead at the 'last trump' (1 Cor. 15:52). Rev. 12:1-5. Then follows . . . a perfect picture of the resurrection of the saints." (J ...)
seeing the child as the resurrected saints
The new set of symbols and the introductory nature of the beginning of chapter 12 seem to me to clearly indicate a new vision, so I hadn't thought of a continuation. I agree that the dead are raised at the last trump which is the seventh trumpet call, but other things happen or are ready to happen then. This is the third and final woe. It is the final wrath of God that has "come." John could have picked this one event of the resurrection and elaborated on it here in chapter 12, but it doesn't seem to fit the natural flow of the text.
Let's suppose, J..., that
you are right about the continuation from chapter 11. You pointed out that
"'Caught up' [in 12:5]
comes from the Greek word harpadzo meaning "to seize, to snatch
away. . . " but that a Greek word indicating a more ordinary ascent is
used in Luke 24:50.
You conclude that "This [and 1 Thess. 4:17] would put more evidence in
favor of the child representing the resurrected saints than Yahshua
I agree that it invites further investigation. In the context, however, I see harpadzo as properly referring to Christ. We are looking at more than the ascension of Christ. It's a symbolic picture. A fierce, wild animal (the dragon) is right in front of the woman, poised to eat the coming baby. In this imagery, "snatch" is a fitting word for the child's rescue (compare Zech. 3:2). Of course Jesus was not taken to heaven as a baby. The dragon pursued Him all of His time on earth. So the snatching was not a quick action in that sense. In victory over sin and in death (Heb. 2;14), He gained the power over the devil.
In other passages, neither word is used. His going to heaven can be described with different words. Notice that, in John 14:1-3, He said He would go, with no mention of being taken. In Eph. 4:10, He "ascended." So there are different ways to look at the same event. He both ascended and was taken up. It was His doing, but the angels had a part in it.
to see Jesus as the one being born
"And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. . . . and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And 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." (Verses 2-5)
Notice the last phrase above. Will we, as the redeemed, sit on God's throne? No, although we will sit on a throne. Here is the promise of Jesus: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Rev. 3:21)
Because the baby goes to God's
throne, it is Jesus (Heb.
1:3). The faithful ones will sit on Christ's throne. Marvelous honor.
Later in our chapter, we will see Christ more clearly as the son of the
Having said how I see this, I realize that others may see things differently. Salvation is a personal matter and understanding the word must be a personal responsibility, too.
May we each be faithful and diligent in the Word.