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)
The mysterious vision of Revelation 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.
In apocalyptic imagery, a woman is often a symbol for a spiritual body.
Thus faithful Israel is often referred to as “the daughter of Zion”, or the “wife of Jahweh”. Unfaithful, or backslidden Israel is likened unto a harlot in prophetic imagery.
How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.(Isaiah 1:21)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.(Zechariah 9:9)
In the New Testament also, the believing church is called “The elect lady”, and “The Bride of Christ”.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;(Revelation 19)
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.(2 Cor 11:2)
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.(Revelation 19:7-9)
The woman in the vision, is generally a picture of the true people of God. They wait for Him, and believe in Him, and are willing to bear all suffering for His truth. On one level this is the meaning of the woman.
There is also a more specific identification to this woman, for often apocalyptic visions have layers of meaning. Fortunately we don’t have to speculate who she is, because there is a principle of interpretation that teaches us to let scripture interpret scripture. In the next article we will take a closer look at who she is and what th vision is telling us.
Who is the mysterious woman, writhing in agony of birth, seen in the vision of the apostle John in Revelation 12?
We have shown that on one level this woman represents the true people of God, the faithful congregation, those who truly worship God, and wait for his full deliverance. But there is a more specific meaning to the Image of the woman in the vision.
Some have speculated that the woman is Eve. We have remarked upon the connection between this chapter and Genesis chapter 3. In Genesis three we see Eve,(Adam also, but he was passive), in a dialogue with the serpent. Eventually she succumbs to the flattery and seduction of the serpent’s lie, and defects from God, with her husband. She is told that she will bring forth a son who would bring salvation, “the seed of the woman”.
Others speculate that the woman represents the virgin Mary, the counterpart to the disobedient Eve. Mary said “Yes” to God even though it meant saying no to herself. But Eve did the opposite. The Roman Catholic Church I was brought up in, featured a large statue of the virgin Mary standing upon a globe. She was crowned with 12 stars and under her feet was the serpent. The blasphemous teaching of this statue was clear, Mary defeated the Devil and set men free. This is none less than a distortion of the original Gospel as proclaimed in Genesis 3,
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.(Genesis 3:14-15)
The European Union has selected for its flag the 12 starred, so-called “Crown of Mary” based on this mis-interpretation of Revelation 12.
Both of these possible answers for the identity of the woman miss the mark. There is no reason other than speculation, to see either Eve or Mary in this woman.
Fortunately there is a specific answer as to the identity of the woman. The book of Genesis offers the key, in the story of the visions of Joseph.
And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?(Genesis 37:5-10)
The woman is clothed in the Sun,Moon and the stars. The dream of Joseph represent the Sun,Moon and Stars as Jacob,Leah, and the twelves sons of Israel. Therefore the Woman is Israel. She is the specific ‘woman’ which the serpent hates and has often tried to destroy. Her seed, the Messiah defeated the Serpent in battle, and it is He that shall soon come to “Rule all nations with a Rod of Iron”.