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12:1,2  THE WOMAN

And 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, being with child, cried out, travailing in birth and in pain to be delivered” (Revelation 12:1,2). In the previous verses (Chapter 11:18) the 24 elders announced an awesome and fearsome development: The time has come for the wrath of God, for the dead to be judged, and for the servants of God to be rewarded. These final developments will manifest themselves in the second half of Revelation as the seven last plagues, the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennium, the “white throne” (executive) judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

The 24 elders also mentioned a number of categories of people: “the dead” who “should be judged,” God’s “servants, the prophets and the saints,” whom He “should reward, those “small and great” who “fear [God’s] name,” and those “who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). Before describing the final events, chapters 12-14 present an impressive drama which identifies the characters involved in the great controversy, shows their roles in the final events, and makes it clear why they receive their reward or punishment.

John saw “a great sign...in heaven:  a woman.”  Women in the Bible are often symbols of  God’s chosen people (Israel in the Old Testament, the church in the New Testament), and may be either pure and holy,[1] or corrupt and wicked.[2] This particular woman is seen with the sun, the moon and twelve stars. The only other passage in which the sun, the moon and twelve stars are mentioned is in Genesis 37. There, Joseph told his father and brothers about his dream of the sun, moon and stars, in which the sun represented his father Jacob, the moon his mother Rachel, and the twelve stars the twelve sons of Jacob. These individuals, along with Abraham and Isaac, were the patriarchs and forefathers of the nation of Israel.[3] Thus the woman with the sun, moon and twelve stars represents the Hebrew nation, consisting of the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman is depicted as pregnant, about to give birth. God’s purpose in setting apart a unique, chosen people for Himself is about to be fulfilled—Israel wwould “give birth” to the Messiah.

Continue to next section:    12:3,4  THE DRAGON

[1]  For example, “I have likened the daughter of Zion [God’s people to a lovely and delicate woman” (Jeremiah 6:2).  In Isaiah 54, referring to His people as a barren woman who will yet bear offspring, God says “Sing, O barren, You who have not borne!…For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman.  For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.  For your Maker is your husband…for the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken…like a youthful wife when you were refused. (Isaiah 54:1-6).  See also Ephesians 5:22-33.

[2]  “There were two women…they committed harlotry…Their names, Oholah and Oholibah…Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah”  (Ezekiel 23). Here the prophet is obviously referring to the corrupt chosen people of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.  Another example is from Revelation, “The woman whom you saw is that great city [spiritual Babylon] which reigns over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18).  See also Hosea 1-3.

[3]  Acts 7:8

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