And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.(Revelation 12:1-5)
I recommend first of all, that my readers take a few moments to read the entire vision of Revelation 12, and to allow the words of this mysterious prophecy to provoke us to a sense of Holy wonder. Try not at this point to mentally explain the parts of this vision, rather step back and just behold the vision in its whole.
All of the 66 books of the Bible are of a seamless unity. They are the written Word of God, and though composed of many different human agencies, over a vast time span and written from various places, all of the texts of scripture share a supernatural unity, they testify to each other, complementing and completing each other in various ways. The Bible is a supernatural account, Truly as the apostle Peter told us, God has used “…holy men of Old, moved by the Holy Spirit” to bring us his Word.
Though all of the books of the Bible are in complete unity, certain books have especially strong connections with other books. The book of Genesis and the book of John for example, both begin, with the Words, “In the beginning…”, Genesis being the account of the Old Creation, and John testifying of the commencement of the New Creation. Both accounts mention greater and lesser lights, (In Genesis the Sun and the moon, and in John, Jesus and john the Baptist).
Finally Genesis begins with a man and woman in a garden, but in John’s gospel, the climax occurs when Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener.
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.(John 20:11-17)
The Revelation given to John is also intimately connected to Genesis. As it was in the beginning , so shall it be at the end. In the Revelation the problems presented in Genesis are resolved, the curse is lifted, the tree of Life comes back to us, the blighted world is watered by the River of Life and becomes a garden again.
The mysterious vision of Genesis 12 is a response to the account of Genesis chapter three, and is meant to be understood through that prism.
What do we have in Genesis three? We see a woman (and a man also, but he is passive). We also encounter a serpent, who is intelligent, subtle and who can communicate with the woman. We also have the promise of a birth, “the seed of the woman”, who will come and crush the serpent, thus saving humanity. But we are also told in Genesis three that birth would be painful and dangerous.
By the time we arrive at Revelation 12, the woman is gloriously clothed, but in the throes of labor. She writhes in the agony of childbirth. As for the serpent, He has become a Dragon now, and waits before the woman to devour the child to be born. He has been granted all worldly power, for he has crowns and authority on this earth.
The baby which the serpent wanted so badly to devour, is born. His destiny is to rule the nations. The serpent is not allowed to devour the child, for as soon as He is born,(seemingly), the child is caught up to heaven, out of the reach of the dragon.
God willing, We will spend the next few articles examining the meaning of these figures and prayerfully considering their relevance to us today…stay tuned.