Clear back in the garden of Eden dealing with the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s rebellion God cursed the serpent by vowing to “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers”. Through the same vow God warned the serpent that the seed of the woman, the Messiah, will “will crush your head and you will strike his heel” and thus bring to an end the dominion the serpent had just obtained over humanity.

Millennia that passed in waiting for the promised child. Revelation chapter 12 begins with what sounds very much like the fulfillment of the promised defeat of the serpent:

A great 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. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter”. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:1-5).

Symbolic depictions woman and child

Women in the Bible often symbolize the people God has chosen to represent Him. If they have been faithful they are pictured as pure and holy (Jeremiah 6:2), but if they have misrepresented Him they are pictured as corrupt and wicked (prostitute riding on the scarlet beast in Revelation 17).

The reference to a newly begotten child who would rule with a rod of iron comes straight from Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage?… The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed… The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You… You shall break [the nations] with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:1-9).

We find the same language about ruling with a rod of iron in Revelation 19, which depicts the second coming of Christ. Thus the “male child” who “rules… with a rod of iron” is Jesus Christ, portrayed not as “meek and lowly in heart” or as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Matthew 11:29, Isaiah 53:3), but as Ruler of the nations, bringing an end to every power that sets itself against God. This passage helps us to keep in perspective the next two chapters of Revelation, which show the success of the nations under Satan’s leadership in persecuting God’s people. Their ultimate end will be destruction.

Fulfillment of symbolic depictions

The symbolic depictions of Revelation 12 were fulfilled in real events recorded in the scriptures. “The woman who was ready to give birth” symbolizes Israel,  but Israel was represented by Mary the mother of Jesus. Satan the dragon “stood before the woman… to devour her Child” in the person of wicked king Herod. By inciting Herod to kill “all the male children who were in Bethlehem from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16) Satan showed the fiendish and desperate lengths he is willing to go to in order to prevent the destruction of his kingdom.

But Satan the dragon was unsuccessful in his attempts to destroy the Male Child for as “she bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron… her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5). As the apostle Paul put it, “Christ died and rose again from the dead… then He ascended to the heights, leading a crowd of captives… and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Romans 14:9, Ephesians 4:8).

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