12 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in labor and agony as she was about to give birth.
~ Rev 12:1-2 (HCSB)
So far, we’ve established the identity of the first woman Jezebel, which is different than the rest. We surveyed the OT symbolfs of women in Part 2, which usually point to capital cities or entire nations. We looked at the third woman, the Great Harlot that rode the Beast, and we saw her counterpart the fourth woman, the New Jerusalem. Of the latter, I emphasized that the symbol of the woman was the bride of Christ clothed in the righteousness of the saints whereas the New Jerusalem is actually what her symbol points to (the antitype, if you prefer). I also emphasized that the Church consists of the called-out ones but that in the future they will be rulers, represented in aggregate as the power center of the capital city of a nation.
So, now we must circle around to the second woman of the Book of Revelation. I left her for last because this is usually where it gets so wrong. For some, it goes wrong in one direction, whereas for most others it goes wrong in the total opposite direction.
A lot of COG groups say this woman is the Church, but is she? How can that be? If you logically follow along, then you have to admit that it does not fit that facts — at all! Having said that, there is a relationship to the Church, even though she herself is not! Confused? You need not be.
In fact, there are many theories about who the woman is, and all of them are correct but only to a point. It is important to remember that God works through others. Even the act of creation was accomplished through Jesus Christ (and if you disagree with this, then we certainly won’t agree on anything else I’m about to say, so save your time and go do something more interesting).
Let’s start with the fact that she interacts with the dragon. About as much of the narrative in chapter 12 is about the dragon as it is about the woman.
9 So the great dragon was thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him.
The slanderer (diablos or Devil) and the adversary (Satan) was the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation, he is called a “dragon” most of the time. This should point out that all those Jesus movies where Jesus is being tempted by a little garter snake is highly deceptive! A “serpent”, after all, can mean anything as small as a baby snake to as large as the fictitious sea serpents. The one quality that makes snakes and dragons similar is the shininess of their skin, and it seems that Satan likes to appear as a shiny lizard like creature.
The Woman as Eve
Some people say that because of her involvement with the dragon or serpent that the woman represents Eve. While not totally correct, it isn’t as far fetched as it might seem at first.
14 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:
15 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.
~ Ge 3:14-15
Where is the first place in the Bible you read about the Gospel? Believe it or not, you just read it! Dr Ralph Levy in his classes on Genesis often refers to this as the “protoevangelium“, or the first Messianic prophecy in Scripture.
So, in one sense this interpretation has some logic behind it. Christ was “her seed” (Ge 3:14 quoted above; Rev 12:17). Of course, Mary was a descendant of Eve (as we all are), so through Mary it came true. However, this view woefully neglects some rather important symbolic details to come to this conclusion.
Speaking of Mary, what about her?
The Woman as Mary
4 His tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. And the dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she did give birth he might devour her child. 5 But she gave birth to a Son—a male who is going to shepherd all nations with an iron scepter—and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
~ Rev 12:4-5 (HCSB)
To Catholics, this might seem like an obvious interpretation. However, for the rest of us, it isn’t and shouldn’t be. True, Mary did give birth to Jesus, but she was just a vessel to be used in the overall larger picture (as we all are, frankly).
Don’t get me wrong. Mary fulfilled a lot of prophecies, and she was the end result of those prophecies beginning with Eve on down to her giving birth in spite of being a virgin. However, this view also neglects some rather important symbolic details, not the least of which is that the main setting in Revelation is about the endtimes, which would be long after Mary was dead and buried.
Since the dragon is described as the “serpent of old”, which harkens back to the beginning, why not check out a little more of the book of beginnings, aka Genesis?
The Woman as Israel
Remember, women in the Bible usually, albeit not always, symbolize a city or a nation and their way of life, to include religious rites. Where can we tie together the details we are given up front to either a city or a nation?
9 And he [Joseph] 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.
10 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?
~ Ge 37:9-10
Here we see stars, the sun and the moon, just like the beginning description of the woman in Revelation 12! She had twelve stars on her head like a crown. Of course, Joseph was one of the twelve, so it makes perfect sense that only eleven stars would bow down to him in his dream. Since Joseph and his brothers make up the twelve tribes of Israel, his dream has prophetic significance!
It was through Israel that the Messiah was born. In fact, He was often called the “Son of David”, who was a Jew. Israel has always had Satan as an opponent to them, which is evident from passages like 1 Chronicles 21:1. The entire flight from Egypt was like a dramatic play symbollizing Pharaoh as the archenemy of God’s people, Satan!
So far, so good. Most COG elders would agree up to this point. It is after this point, however, that things get wacky a lot of times.
What I am asking you to do is to think.
The Woman as the Church
The reasoning goes something like: Israel was the physical Church called out of all the nations in the OT, and the Church is the spiritual organism called out of the world in the NT, so the woman represents the Church.
Does that really stand up to scrutiny? After all, isn’t Jesus going to marry the Church? Is He going to marry His own mother? More to the point, did Jesus have a father? If so, who was His mother married to?
Yes, the woman is given wings, which represents a change along the way, but notice that she is given wings so she can escape the dragon!
13 When the dragon saw that he had been thrown to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child [not His bride!]. 14 The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent’s presence to her place in the wilderness, where she was fed for a time, times, and half a time.
~ vv 13-14
People see the wings and try to spiritualize it somehow, but remember, Israel was also carried out on “eagles’ wings” as well (Ex 19:4). We see no one making claims about how Israel was somehow spiritual as a result!
Something else to consider: Sometimes you hear that the “Church is your mother”. I’m sorry, but I have one really hard time finding that in my Bible. You want to know why? Because we are the Church. Now, I realize there is a country song out there “I’m My Own Grandpa”, but that’s a joke, don’t you know? We cannot be offsprings of ourselves. Not only that, but if Jesus married the Church, and the Church is our mother, then that means we are sons of Jesus, not of God the Father.
Yet, it is obvious that this woman of Revelation 12 is a mother!
17 So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus.
Is God the author of confusion? Or, is there another answer? If the woman is Israel, then all of these problems are solved!
The Woman as the Mother of the Church
Seriously, all who will be eventually saved, both in this life and in the resurrection, will be children of the Most High God and of Israel!
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
~ Gal 3:7, 29
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
~ Ro 9:6-8
All of these point to being children (descendants) of Abraham in a spiritual sense. The Pharisees liked to strut around claiming to be the descendants of Abraham, but both John the Baptist and Jesus told them that it was not physical inheritance that mattered but that of the heart. Paul elaborates that being a spiritual Israelite is more important than physical inheritance! However, I give you one more passage from Paul that makes it even clearer.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
~ Ro 11:2-3, 11, 16-21, 25
Here, Paul is talking about Gentiles being grafted onto the “olive tree” which is Israel! Israel was cut off from the tree because of their unbelief, which opened the door to the Gentiles. However, they then became part of spiritual Israel.
Let’s get this straight: The Church is not spiritual Israel! That’s called “replacement theology”, and it is a manner of picking and choosing which nice things belong to the Church and which evil things belong to physical Israel! It is bunk!
We are the offspring of spiritual Israel! That means Israel was married to God the Father and Christ will marry the Church!
If Israel was Jesus’ mother, then who is the Church’s mother? Israel!
Ever here the “dilemma” where a skeptic asks, “Where did Cain get his wife?” Well, where did Cain get his wife? He married his sister! The Church is not Jesus’ mother, but His sister and soon to be wife!
Think about it. The Church was originally all Jews. They came out of Israel, just as offspring comes out of its mother. Jesus was also born a Jew. There is no need for a lot of confusion or double-talk here!
Something else to consider is that Israel is the larger nation overall, but Jesus marries the capital city New Jerusalem! As Jesus’ wife, she still must obey her husband and her Father. These entities are all related but not quite the same, just as a person in a family is related to other members of the family but still has their own identity.
As I am fond of saying, “It ain’t rocket science!”
Lot’s wife was obviously either not a believer or a very weak believer. Yet, because of Lot (or, more precisely I suppose, because of Abraham), she had her chance to be spared. When Israel came out of Egypt, there was a “mixed multitude” with them as well.
So, when the woman, spiritual Israel, is given wings and flies to be protected for 3-1/2 years, how many children who are not yet baptized will be included? How many spouses who are just on the border of faith? Will any others get swept up in it as well?
The simple answer is: I don’t know, but to say it is only the Church that goes into the wilderness may not be completely accurate anyhow. More than likely, there will be a few who God is working with but have not yet committed or are still trying to figure things out.
The Church comprises spiritual Israel in this day and age because we are the ones that God is working with right now. Abraham was not even an Israelite, when it comes right down to it, but he certainly will be there in the Kingdom! All of the patriarchs, David, the prophets, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc., all preceded the Church age! After Christ returns, what will “the Church” even be? Called out? Called out of what? No, it will be all Christ’s Kingdom, and then when it is all said and done, He will turn it all over to His Father.
The Church is just one small part of it for a particular time, but it will become something even greater in the future. However, she, just like Jesus, will always be the offspring of Israel and God the Father.
However, there is still one item to clarify: Is the Church our mother?