Exegetical look into Revelation 12:1-6

 

  • Sign. Usually means something seen in the sky or an astronomical event. Here, it is an illustration, conveying an event that is unexpected and astonishing. As with most symbols and metaphors in Scripture, it is an expression with the intention of pointing to something beyond it (Luke 21:11, 25; Acts 2:19).
  • A woman. This refers to righteousness and motherhood (as Israel is portrayed as mother to the race), faith, and to the Christ. It is possibly a reference to “The Madonna,” Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was a very powerful symbolic image in ancient cultures, especially Judaism. This would have been a comfort to the struggling Messianic community. Classically, some, especially the Catholics, see this as Mary and the drama of the incarnation of Christ prior to His arrival on earth. (It is interesting to note that the Christian Scientists see this woman, her spirit, as the founder of their cult.) Is. 62:5.
  • Clothed. Referring to dignity and exalted Israel, or, to God’s glory.
  • Sun, with the moon. These are Jewish references to Abraham and Sarah, referring to the birth of the people of Israel, their hope, and blessings to come.
  • Twelve stars. This is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel and refers to Joseph’s dreams. In conjunction with the woman and context, it is clearly referencing Israel. Some see this as satan’s rebellion (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). This term or passage has nothing to do with astrology or the zodiac, other than it uses similar imagery for illustration sake but not as substance (Gen. 37:9-10; Lev. 19:26-28, 31; 20:6; Deut 18:9-14; Is. 8:19; 47:12-13; Jer. 10:1-2).
  • Pregnant. In contrast, a virgin meant someone who is faithful, and a prostitute meant someone who is pregnant and not married, denoting unfaithfulness. This is meant to contrast the heavenly with the evil, faithful and heavenly Jerusalem versus the harlot and oppressor Babylon, reviled in Israel for its destruction of the Temple, the theft of the Ark, and the captivity of the people (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 26:18-19; 54:1; Micah 5:3; John 16:21; Rev. 17:5; 21:2). 
  • Pain. As in struggle, good versus evil, our will versus God’s will, satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith. This can also mean the suffering of waiting for the Messiah to come and/or waiting for the second coming.
  • Give birth refers to the birth of the Messiah; it also denotes being saved, either as faithfulness, or being saved by Christ. It also meant for Jews, the captives of Babylon, traveling back to Israel to rebirth the nation and Jerusalem (Is. 54:1-4; 66:7-13; Micah 4:10; 5:2-3; Rev. 12:17).
  • Red dragon…. The term “dragon” literally means “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, and symbolizes monstrous evil (common in Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths), and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of satan who is the enemy of God, who is a terrifying and destructive beast, and who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. This image is not meant to terrify us, but show us how he works so we can beware and defend. This was also a metaphor for Babylon and the enemies of Israel and God. It is very unwise to read in meanings that are not there to this and other metaphors (apocryphal book “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7-9; 13:2; 20:2).
  • Seven heads. This represents domination, and also refers to astuteness and universal wisdom (Rev. 13:1).
  • Ten horns and seven crowns is the image of great power as well as battle and warfare, depicting how satan rises up to battle God, but he is sent to everlasting torment in Rev. 20:10!
  • Tail swept a third of the stars is a Jewish metaphor for the power of Heaven fighting on behalf of Israel. This also meant pouring rain and rebellion. This also referred to satan’s betrayal and rebellion and the fall of 1/3 of the angels under him. This metaphor also meant to sin or to fall into sin and be corrupted. For us, it can mean the rebellion against Christ (Judges 5:20; Is. 24:21; Dan. 12:3; Rev. 8:10).
  • He might devour her child. Satan was unable to prevent Christ’s incarnation and redemption, thus, he seeks to manipulate and destroy His followers (Matt. 2:13-18; Luke 4:28-29).
  • Gave birth …a son. Referring to deliverance, this metaphor also pointed to Augustus in Greek thought, and to a savior in Judaism and early Christianity. This theme was a great comfort to the early persecuted Church. This, in the early Church, referred to the Messianic enthronement of Jesus Christ, His birth, death, resurrection, and Lordship (John 16:21).
  • A male child. This is a perhaps a recoding of the fulfillment of Micah 5:3: Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. It refers to Christ’s incarnation, His role as Messiah and Savior, and how His triumph and accomplishments certify this fact (Is. 7:14; 9:6). As Jesus’ words state, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37-39).
  • Rule all the nations… Iron scepter. Meaning the coronation of a divine leader who will conquer evil. This doesn’t mean oppression or dictatorship; rather, it refers to a caring shepherd, and at the same time, God’s strength, authority, and right to rule (Rev. 2:27; 11:15; 19:15).
  • Child was snatched up to God. May refer to the ascension of Christ. In Greek myths, children were taken and hidden from their enemy until they were old enough, trained to defend themselves, and could go after their oppressors. The image here is that our God protects, and desires us to mature, be trained up, and be ready to defend (Psalm 2:6-9; Is. 9:6-7; Micah 5:3; Acts 1:9; 2:33; Heb. 1:1-3; 12:2).
  • Desert/Wilderness means “spiritual refuge,” and refers to how the people of God, after the Exodus, wandered for 40 years, their faithfulness and betrayal, and the grace of God. Also, their waiting for their inheritance of the Promised Land. In the Early Church, this was referred to as the period between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming. The Jews were expecting a deliverance from the Romans by a second Exodus (Hosea 2:14).
  • Taken care of means spiritual protection, as God promises His protection to a persecuted Church (Rev.13:5).
  • 1,260 days perhaps refers to the great tribulation of Daniel, but more likely is a metaphor for trials and troubles. This does not mean a literal number but a type of trouble such as persecution (Dan. 9:2-24; Rev. 11:2).
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