A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth…. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. (Rev. 12:1-2, 5 NASB)
Just as God inserted the parenthetical Church Age between Daniel’s 69th and 70th weeks prophesied for the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:24-27; see also Part 5 and Part 7), He similarly inserted parenthetical accounts between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals, between the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets, and between the pouring out of the sixth and seventh bowls of wrath in The Revelation of Jesus Christ (7:1-17; 10-11:14, and 16:15-16, respectively).
The third and longest segment of this book describing the things which must take place after this [Church Age] (1:19) is supernaturally complex; it warrants disciplined Spirit-led study to mine it’s unfathomable depths and riches. Praise God He progressively (and patiently!) reveals Jesus Christ to us, the members of His Body, by His Spirit (see John 16:12-14 and 1 Cor. 2:10-12) as we press into Him and study His word together like this. I thank all of you who have contributed to the writing of this series with your questions, and I encourage the true students amongst us to keep your heart-felt questions coming; we are fast approaching the end of the series.
May God grant us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as we close ourselves off from all distractions, settle in, and study His astounding purposes for us as the male child… caught up… to His throne, that we may apprehend them, for the time is near! Amen.
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Given that our study is of God’s exalted position of His Church in the end-times and not a study of end-time prophecy per se, we will jump from the raptured Church’s enthronement as the twenty-four elders in Chs. 4 and 5 (see Part 9) to their worship in Ch.11 at a pivotal awe-evoking point in The Revelation of Jesus Christ: the sounding of the seventh trumpet. This is the third of three woes to the inhabitants of the earth (see Rev. 8:13), and it ushers forth this blessed proclamation and worship in heaven:
15 Then the seventh angel sounded [the seventh trumpet]; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”
16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,
“We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
19 And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm. (Rev. 11:15-19).
(How can one write or read anything immediately after absorbing this?!)
This supremely important turn of events for all of heaven and earth is immediately followed by the key twelfth chapter of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. This highly symbolic chapter and the two chapters following it constitute yet another parenthesis in this book between the sounding of the seventh trumpet and the pouring out of the seven bowls of wrath.
Chapter 12 describes the spiritual warfare within the heavenly realms which precipitates the spiritual warfare on the earth below: the great tribulation. You may recall that Eph. 1:9-10 indicates heaven is brought under Christ’s rule before the earth is (and the latter won’t occur until the Millennium). Well, this is the chapter which illustrates that we, the enthroned Body of Jesus Christ Himself, will make known the manifold wisdom of God… to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10 emphasis added), actually causing Satan and his fallen cohorts to be thrown out of heaven to the earth below.
This critical twelfth chapter contains another description of the raptured Church, and it is this: the male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron… caught up to God and to His throne (v.5).
Before we study it in the context of the highly symbolic chapter, I believe it will help first to point out three key internal details.
First, the Greek word translated caught up is harpazo, the same word Paul used to describe God’s rescuing His Church from the coming wrath in 1 Thess. 4:17 (see Part 7). It implies a violent seizing or snatching up by God in both Scriptures. The male child thus does NOT represent Jesus, for His ascension up to heaven was not a violent seizing or snatching up by God. Furthermore, Jesus was crucified and resurrected before He ascended, and the cross does not appear in this chapter. Even more, this section of The Reveation of Jesus Christ is prophetic: Jesus told John in His outline of the book that this third part is what will take place later (1:19), and the word prophecy is used to describe this book in 1:3, and 22:7,10,18, & 19. Lastly, of course, Jesus Christ was NOT seized up to heaven by God to be protected from Satan – this male child is, as will be seen shortly.
The second observation is that this male child is caught up… to God and His throne, where he will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Here we see fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to the Laodicean overcomers: He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (3:21), as we saw fulfilled also by the raptured Church symbolized as the twenty-four elders on thrones in Rev. 4 and 5 and in 11:16 (see above).
We then see fulfillment of the first part of His promise to the Thyratiran overcomers: He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father (2:26-27). Note that the underlined words are Jesus’ direct quote of His Father’s promise to Him in v.9 of Psalm 2 – because His Bride is one Body with Him, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh (see end of Part 4: The Bride of Christ), we receive this astounding promise from our Father with our Bridegroom! Praise God for exalting us to rule as “the Christ” – one Body with His glorified Son! Oh, worship Him with me now…
Thirdly, recall from Part 8 that this third part of The Revelation of Jesus Christ contains over 400 allusions to the OT, in large part for the sake of the tribulation Jews. Keeping this simple and superficial, the Greek words for the term male child apparently are grammatically improper. This would point the tribulation Jews studying the Scriptures after the Church is raptured to the woman in travail in Isaiah 66:7, which reads Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy, for that apparently also involves improper grammar in the Greek regarding the male child. Verse 8 continues: Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. It has been noted that vv. 7-8 prophesy both the Holocaust and Israel becoming a sovereign nation in 1948; it is suggested that the Jewish remnant would recognize the Rev. 12:5 connection with this passage, and apprehend its profound significance for them at that time.
Having covered these preliminary matters, let’s now study the key fifth verse in context in the first third of Revelation Ch. 12.
1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
1 The term A great sign appeared in heaven indicates that what transpires here is of great significance. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, Gen. 37:9-11 tells us the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars symbolizes the nation of Israel. This comes from Joseph’s second dream, which his father, Israel himself, interpreted therein as including himself (the sun), his wife (the moon), and their children / the twelve tribes of Israel (the stars).
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven [angels] and threw them to the earth [fallen angels]. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
3 The forthcoming 9th verse confirms that the dragon is Satan. The ten horns are the ten kings of Dan. 7. The seven heads are most likely the seven major kingdoms of the earth as relayed in the Scriptures: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the final Rome (the latter being the divided kingdom of Dan. 2 vv. 33, 41-43 made of iron and clay, ruled by the ten kings of Dan. 7).
4 In Genesis 3:5, God decreed to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed…” This is the first prophecy of Scripture, and God spoke it Himself to Satan. From then on, Satan’s seed has always tried to destroy Christ, who is the seed of the woman (see Gal. 3:16). Satan’s seed includes not only the fallen angels, but his instruments, the kings of the earth (see Psalm 2:2). Time and again Satan and his seed tried to destroy the Messianic line throughout the OT. King Herod tried to destroy the baby Jesus directly via male infanticide (see Matt. 2:13-18). The annals of history show that the kings of the earth continued persecuting the person of Christ, His Church, from the First Century onward (most notably via the Catholic Church during the dark ages) until this very day. This Scripture prophesies that these instruments/ horns of Satan will continue persecuting those who are one with Christ, who is the seed of the woman, until Christ is fully formed, and He is formed in us (see Gal. 3:29, Eph. 4:12-13, also Gal. 4:19).
5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
5 We’ve already demonstrated that (1) this key verse refers to the rapture of the Church (2) the rapture of the Church was previously alluded to in Rev. 4:1-2 (see Part 8: The Doors, the Trumpet, and the Transformation), and (3) this key verse fulfills some of Jesus’ promises to His overcomers in Chs. 2 and 3. Note that this verse also depicts the Church’s enthronement, alluded to in Daniel 7 (see Part 6: The Thrones and the Court) and described in Rev. 4 and 5 (see Part 9: The Twenty-Four Elders on the Thrones).
2 & 5 Finally, regarding the woman, Israel, travailing for and giving birth to the Church: salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22). Our Savior was of Jewish descent, and He travailed greatly on behalf of His Church. He then sent forth His apostles, the first of whom were all Jews, to make disciples of all the nations. As we know from The Acts of the Apostles and the epistles, these Jews likewise travailed tremendously on behalf of the Church, and many were martyred as Christ was. Equating the labor and pain of childbirth with the labor and pain of building up the Church, Paul told the churches of Galatia they were his dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you… (Gal. 4:16 NIV).
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[Next time, God-willing, we’ll continue in Rev. 12 with the Church’s rapture to God and to His throne precipitating war in heaven, the expulsion of Satan, and the great tribulation on earth below…]
I dedicate this labor of love to PaulJ, to whom I promised this six weeks ago in a comment in Part 5. God bless you, dear brother!
May God richly bless all those who study the Scriptures like Bereans!