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© by Rich Kelsey.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any way by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior permission of the copyright holder, except as provided by U.S. copyright law.  ISBN 1-57921-526-2 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002115819




Chapter Ten



"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." (Rev. 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 our 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 spells out a feasible explanation of this prophecy:

"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"(vv. 4–5a).

Please notice the term "iron scepter" in our text. Let's look into a parallel verse that also contains the words "iron scepter." Jesus promised overcoming Christians,

"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'" (Rev. 2:26–27).


    By comparing these parallel texts, we may surmise that the male child in Revelation 12 who "will rule all the nations with an iron scepter" is an illustration of overcom­ing Christians. Nevertheless, some authors and ministers claim this male child is limited in scope to Jesus Christ, 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 as the Bible claims—yet so will those who share in his kingdom.


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."[10]


    Since the church is illustrated as a woman in some scriptures, why would her seed be portrayed as a male child? A good possible answer is that 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.

    What troubles some Bible teachers about deeming this male child in Revelation as 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. And this is only one of the problems with maintaining that Christ is Revelation's male child.

    If Jesus was the child in our text, then the woman must have either been 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" (Rev. 12:13–17 KJV).

I might add, neither did Israel.

    Let's look further into the context of verse 5.

"And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne" (Rev. 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 that Revelation was penned in, 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."

    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. 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" (Rev. 12:10).

The term "now" is indicating a specific point in time. Let's look at another passage that has similar con­notations:

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


Evidently, the words "from now on" also point to this time when Christ and his church take authority in the heavens.


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." (Rev. 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,[12] 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" (Rev. 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.

    Here's another problem: 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, either because they converted to Christian­ity after the Rapture 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 strong dedication to Christ. The rest of her offspring are described as "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus."[13] One might wonder, is this the type of people that Jesus will leave behind?

    Let's consider another possibility, maybe these Christians have simply not arrived because the Rapture hasn't happened yet. And maybe Revelation 12 is showing us a contrast between the living church and those who have died.

"[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" (Rev. 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." (Rev. 12:14)


In verse 6 it's recorded that the woman/church had "fled to" the desert. But then later on, after Satan has been banished from heaven to earth, it's written that the woman/church "might fly to" the desert (verse 14). The words "fled to" in this chapter may be speaking of people who have already passed on to the heavenly realm. The words "might fly to" could be speaking of Christians who are still alive and might die in the days to come.


A Solitary Place

    The word "desert" in this passage 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"[14] and that Jewish[15] 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.

The desert the woman flees to is called "the place prepared for her by God." Another detail surrounding this desert is found in verse 14:

"The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly."

    This type of word usage suggests a spiritual / heavenly application it also suggests spiritual ascension.


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" (vv. 15–16).


    Elsewhere in the Bible water[xvi] like a river has been used an illustration of a spiritual force. Could the earth open­ing its mouth and swallowing the river be another way of saying that the spiritual force of Satan 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 may be an illustration of heaven, and the pathway to this solitary place for many people could be 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" (Rev. 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." (Rev. 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!" (Rev. 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" 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.



[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" (Rev. 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 Tim. 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" (Matt. 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" (Exod. 24:12).

[6] Rev. 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" (Dan. 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'" (Isa. 14:12–13).

[9] "He will rule them with an iron scepter" (Rev. 19:15, Ps. 2:9).

[10] Copyright statement: The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible mod­ernized and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All rights reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario. A printed copy of this work can be ordered from The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Drive, Paris, AR 72855

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

[12] "He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short" (Rev. 12:12b).

[13] Rev. 12:17

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

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

[xvi] John 7:38–39