The woman of Revelation 12

(Rev 12:1 NIV) A great and wondrous 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.

The vision of a woman was given to John on the isle of Patmos towards the end of the first century CE. All Scripture is for our instruction and edification; it is wisdom that we seek to find the meaning of this important sign. John calls it a wonder in “heaven”. It is not the sky up above or some remote place where God lives. The Revelation is about the inner heavens within us and in this picture are hidden truths for the ecclesia.

Attention is first drawn to the head of the woman, i.e. the part that has a ruling function over the body. From the head flows the whole purpose and will for every part of any body, if it be fitly framed together. This purpose of the head was used by the apostle when he referred to the relationship between Christ and His church. Christ is clearly seen in Scripture as head over the church which His body.

Upon the woman’s head is a crown. This is ‘stephanos’ a victor’s crown as was given in ancient days to symbolize triumph in the games or as an honour for service rendered to the state. Not a jewel encrusted crown but rather a garland of oak, ivy or olive leaves. A marked contrast to the ‘diadema’ (a crown) used to speak of the imperial dignity of the kind sought after by earthly kings. The woman’s crowned head is the symbol of a victorious, triumphant figure who has received the garland as the overcoming one/s.

Yet this garland was of a special kind. It was to be of twelve stars. Twelve speaks of divine government or apostolic fullness. While the idea of twelve also calls attention to the twelve tribes of Israel and to the story in Gen. 37.it seems more likely that these twelve stars refers to apostolic fullness and to spirit filled government.

(Rev 1:16 NRSV) In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.

One like unto the son of man who holds seven stars in His right hand. These are angelos/messengers, or as most commentators will agree ministers (men) of, or in, the seven churches.

(Gen 1:17 NRSV) God set them (the stars) in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.

The stars are light bearers. This is the seed thought in regard to the scriptural meaning of stars. The symbolism is again seen in 1 Corinthians as being resurrection glory and also is the picture of the triumphant saints of Daniel.

(Dan 12:3 NRSV) Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
(1 Cor 15:41 NRSV) There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

Abraham was promised his seed was to be as the stars in number.

(Exo 32:13 KJV) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven.

Clearly this does not refer to natural Israel but to the ecclesia or spiritual Israel. Paul writes, (Heb 11:12) ” . . . from Abraham as many as the stars of the sky in multitude” and in Gal. 4:22-31 he speaks of the followers of the way as the spiritual seed children of Abraham who can claim this promise of being part of “the stars in number”.

These extracts also support the idea that stars speak of a person (singular) rather than, as some suggest, involving a plurality as with tribes.

In the story which unfolds in Gen.37 care needs to be taken to note that there are eleven stars, (persons) involved.. v9… ‘The sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ This is the number (11) involved in rebellion, apostasy and backsliding. The brothers were part of the chosen family of God but envy led to them deceiving both Father and Mother and seeking to destroy the favourite son. As progenitors of the natural Israel their action foreshadows the response of the Jews when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.

The history of natural Israel portrays a nation far from the nature of the glorious woman of Rev 12. A far more true to life typology is found for Israel/Judah in the dragon that stood before the woman ready to devour the child. We should notice that it was the apostate Israel/Judah who sought to crucify Jesus. To point to Herod the Great and suggest that he, acting as a Roman was responsible ignores the fact that he was a Jewish king. Notice that Matthew writes that Herod and ALL Jerusalem trembled at the thought that the Messiah had been born. A righteous people would have rejoiced greatly.

(Mat 2:3 NRSV) When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.

Herod the Great’s response was to follow the same pattern as the later dragon in Revelation. He sought to kill the young child. It is interesting to consider that Herod’s defining the age of those to be slain leads us to think that Jesus was probably between 18 months and 2 years at the time of the wise men’s visit.

Jesus knew the nature of those who sought to destroy him. He said, “Ye are of your father the devil’ (John8:44). The type of the dragon continues as Jesus is taken into the heavenlies and the Jews persecuted the young church in every part of the land. The dragon of Revelation also fulfils this pattern when he went off to make war on the rest of the woman’s offspring.

‘A woman with the Moon under her feet’

This places the moon in a supportive position. The woman may be said to be standing on the moon. Her feet are involved. In Scripture, the feet speak of the walk and of humility.

(Psa 40:2 NRSV) He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
(Isa 52:7 NRSV) How beautiful upon the mountains>are the feet>of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Feet are also linked with peace, salvation and glad tidings. In the symbolism of the woman she is standing on the sign of the Son of God, for the moon is often so used. Recall that the moon will turn to blood on that great and terrible day. The symbol is speaking of the living Word upon which the Ecclesia stands. The Ecclesia is to stand fast in the liberty of Christ and upon the foundation of the rock of God. Jesus is that rock. Earthly Israel had and has no such foundation.

The Song of Solomon has another picture of the woman.

Song.6:10 ‘Who is she who looks forth as the morning , fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners.

This is a beautiful picture of the Spirit filled Bride. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard (banner) against him

A woman clothed with the Sun

The sun symbol points to the glory of the Father that is to be the inheritance of the Ecclesia the bride.

(Psa 84:11 NIV) For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
(Heb 12:29 NIV) for our “God is a consuming fire.”

He dwells in unapproachable light. Sinful flesh, even the so called ‘chosen’ people, i.e. Israel after the flesh, could not wear this garment of the sun transfiguration. This is reserved for the Bride, without spot or wrinkle or blemish or any such thing. She will be the fit wife for God’s only begotten son and as such a queen in wonderful array. Ps. 45 begins a song about this and is clearly an adoration of the Lord Jesus and beside Him we read of the queen in garments of gold.

(Psa 45:13 NIV) All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold.

She is all glorious within and shows forth the fulfilment of Eph.5.

(Eph 5:22-23 KJV) Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

This is the Ecclesia the bride. Herein is also to be found the full revealing of Proverbs.31:The price of the bride will be above rubies and no darkness will be found in her. She is to be as clear as the sun.

(Prov 31:10-31 NRSV) A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. [11] The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. [12] She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. [13] She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. [14] She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. [15] She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. [16] She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. [17] She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. [18] She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. [19] She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. [20] She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. [21] She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. [22] She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. [23] Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. [24] She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes. [25] Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. [26] She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. [27] She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. [28] Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: [29] “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” [30] Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. [31] Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.
(Song 6:10 KJV) Who is she that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?

A woman who is with child.

This is the revealing of the bride after a great mystery. The Ecclesia is betrothed. The apostle writes of this theme as a great mystery. Isaiah the great prophet of Israel also speaks of a like theme. He begins, ‘Hear the Word of the Lord’. This word was addressed to those who tremble at His Word and are cast out for His name’s sake. A time is prophesied when the city and the temple will hear the sound of the Lord God in warfare against the wicked. During this time of great uproar who will be delivered of a man child? (or children?) Not Israel, not Mary, but Zion the fortress of God. i.e. the Ecclesia. Isaiah 66: ‘…she was delivered of a man child. …who has heard such a thing?..shall a nation be born at once. For as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children.’ (i.e. a man child.) A plurality.

Note from Vines An Expository Dictionary: ‘Arsen’ or ‘Arren’ is translated ‘men’ in Romans.1:27 (three times) as ‘man child’ in Rev 12:5 ; and as male in Matt.19:4. The word arren may be seen as singular or plural. It can be an individual or a company of people. Note Isaiah 66:8. in this regard.

(Isa 66:5-8 KJV) Hear the word of the LORD, you that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. [6] A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that renders recompense to his enemies. [7] Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. [8] Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
(2 Cor 11:2 KJV) For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
(Eph 5:32 KJV) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

And the dragon stood before the woman

As did the serpent stand before Eve in the beginning and she fell. As Herod stood before Mary and sought Jesus. The glorious woman in Revelation.12 is shown as victorious.

This confrontation involves one of the central themes of Scripture. The battle between the dragon/ serpent/ devil and the woman/church/bride. Always the devil stands before the church to destroy the precious seed that she nurtures within. It is significant that the dragon doesn’t seek to kill the man-child, but rather to devour him/them. The object of the serpent with Eve was to corrupt the living Word within her and make it a lie and so part of the serpent nature. This also was the purpose in the temptation of the Lord Jesus. In the same sense the dragon/serpent also seeks in Revelation12 to envelop the divine creation, (devour) corrupt, him/them and make them part of his evil self nature.

A woman given two wings of a great eagle.

The significance of this is first found in Exodus. Israel was taken out of Egypt and delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh by the power of eagle wings. Not literal eagles but the keeping power that will in the same way bring the woman into a safe place. As with Israel it, will involve keeping from sickness, hunger and want. Studies of the eagle in Scripture show God likened to an eagle.

(Exo 19:4 KJV) You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself.
(Isa 40:31 KJV) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Comments on some currently held ideas about the woman of Rev 12.

(a) The primary objection to many theories is the time of writing. Historicist views suggest Mary or Israel as the woman. However, why show John the apostle a great sign about something he was familiar with in reality.

(b) Rev.1:1 says plainly that the things shown were to soon take place. This is future!

(c) Israel/Judah at the time of Jesus were, as a nation, far from being a holy people. God found one person, Mary and she was obedient to the Word. She became a very special person among a corrupt people. Perhaps we could see here a type of that later woman of Revelations, but only as a type. Notice that Mary brought forth Jesus long before John’s vision.

(d) That Mary had brought forth a deliverer and the devil tempted him and had sought to corrupt him was well known to John and was/ is known to the ecclesia. So also were the taking of Jesus into heaven and the persecution of the ecclesia that followed. Why make such the subject of a ‘special’ vision?

(e) Those who hold the British Israel /lost tribes idea also place the birth of the man-child before John’s vision. This theory makes of the whole of chapter 12 a history exposition relating to the journeying of the ten lost tribes. The symbolism of the revealed woman is linked with Gen.37 to show that the woman is Israel. This error has been discussed earlier. (eleven stars)

(f) Some consider Herod the Great as being a Roman and so link Rome to the dragon through him. Herod was of the Edomite lineage through Antipar, but the family were circumcised Jews from the time of the Maccabees. Herod was in all essentials of religious practise a member of Judah/Israel.

(g) ‘A great wonder’ Rev.12:1-3 is ‘simeion’ a sign, or mark or indication. Vines translates this word in this content as, ‘a token portending FUTURE events.’

(h) Israel is likened to a married woman in Jer.3:12-14. If this is so, and that following her misbehaviour she was divorced, Jer.3:8. When is to be the return to favour? What are the implications regarding the birth of a child in this context?