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 woman in the vision is a spiritual body, the true people of God. Specifically she is Israel, the “daughter of Zion” and the wife of Jahweh. She is in pain, crying out, waiting to be delivered.
In what sense has this vision already been fulfilled? Is there yet a future fulfillment of this part of the vision?
Consider the history of the Holy Nation. What was she chosen to do? God gave Israel, through Moses and all of the prophets, the Word of God. She was to be the custodian and bearer of the testimony of God to all of the nations. Bringing the Word of God into the world and preserving it through all kinds of opposition, internal and external, has been a great part of Israel’s travail.
Bearing the Word of God, has exposed the nation to every sort of persecution, Satanic opposition, and internal strife. Preserving worship, priesthood and sacrifice and temple certainly cost something. Nothing good comes into this sinful world without pain. Child birth is the example and metaphor of this truth.
Israel has also been the specific nation which served as the receptacle of the Messiah. All of her previous history; her Exodus, the Land of Promise, her Kings, the exile and return to the land, the opposition to her from the nations, (and Satan), as well as all of her dealings with God were preparation for this one great task; she would be the people through whom the Messiah could come.
Her sufferings for Christ have served as labor pains, so also her rejection and reproach from this world. Her internal struggles have served her as well. The Prophet Micah said as much when he prophesied to her,
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail. Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies. Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth…(Micah 4:9-12)
The Prophet tells us that the nations gathered against her, have misinterpreted Israel’s labor pains, for “their thoughts are not of the LORD”. They imagine she is God forsaken, and vulnerable to their ravaging, for who is more vulnerable than an expectant mother?
The Nations didn’t realize then that Israel was travailing to bring forth the Messiah, that thus out of her (Israel’s ) weakness and pain would come the one whose “Goings forth have been of old, from everlasting”.
…But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.(Micah 5:2-4)
There is another sense in which Israel is still in labor. There is coming to this earth a brand new Age, called “the regeneration of all things”(Matthew 19:27-30), and “the glory that shall be revealed”(Romans 8:17-18), in which the Messiah will rule from MT Zion and the nations will stream to Jerusalem to learn of God’s ways.
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.(Micah 4:1-5)
But that glorious day cannot dawn until Israel, the estranged wife of Jahweh acknowledges her offense, and admits to her one great sin. In that sense you could say that she travails in birth waiting for the Age of Righteousness, the Millennium.
If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;(Leviticus 26:40)
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.(Hosea 5:15)
The phrase above,”their Affliction” is a reference to the coming “great Tribulation”.
The coming of the Lord is likened to the birth of a baby. Jesus likened the signs of his coming; earthquakes, pestilences, wars and rumours of wars, as “the beginning of sorrows”, literally “Birthpangs”. Zion is said to go into travail when the tribulation breaks out as “the pains of a woman with child”.
Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O Lord. We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.(Isaiah 26:17-18)