Summary: Hostility to the Church
Revelation 12 verses 1-6
Chapter 12 marks a division in Revelation. John turns aside to explain the underlying cause of the hostility about to break upon the Church. This is outlined in chapters 12-14 and then in chapters 15-19 God will come in judgment on His enemies before we encounter chapters 20-22 and God rewarding His own people.
In chapters 12 to 14 we will meet 7 figures - the radiant woman, the dragon, the male-child, Michael, the seed of the woman and the two beasts. Some commentators organise these chapters into 7 oracles depicting the supernatural conflict between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness. Whereas other commentators see the chapters as containing 7 signs connected with the troubles of the Church. No matter how you want to divide up these chapters they form an introduction to the key characters who play a major role in the final confrontation of history.
It is 47 weeks to Christmas. I just thought you would like to know that since this past week we have had Christmas weather. The Christmas story involves Mary and Joseph, some shepherds, wise men and the baby Jesus. The Nativity scene is always pictured as something serene and peaceful. However, to make sure we do not over sentimentalise the nativity scene the Apostle John is given here a vision of behind the scenes of the birth of Christ. This version is like the Christmas Story on steroids and it is found in our reading from Revelation this morning - Revelation 12.1-6.
Verses 1-2 - John begins this verse telling us that ‘a great sign appeared in heaven.’ In Revelation a sign is a great spectacle that has appeared. It is not like a road sign. In fact in his gospel John uses the exact same Greek word, semeion, for the miracles of Jesus Christ which he calls ‘signs.’ He tells us that the content of this spectacle is a woman, and what a woman - verses 1 and 2 - Read. She is clothed with the sun, the moon is under her feet, she has a crown of 12 stars on her head and she is pregnant. She is about to give birth. Who is this woman? What does she represent?
You may immediately think that this woman is Mary - but it is NOT. You may think it is because if you look at verse 5 she gives birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron or iron sceptre. When you read the whole chapter you will realise it cannot be Mary. By the time you get down to verse 17, which we will look at in more detail next week, you realise that this is the ‘mother church’ if you like and all the offspring are the other believers. This woman is in fact the entire Messianic community - both from the OT and NT. The Messianic Community is often spoken of as a woman in the OT. The mention of a crown with 12 stars - in Revelation 2.10 and 3.11 a crown was promised to the suffering Church and the number 12 is associated with the Messianic Community of Believers, and especially Israel in the OT. For example in the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37.9 - he sees 11 stars bowing down to his star - representing the sons of Jacob - who formed the 12 tribes of Israel bowing down to him. The 12 stars represented Israel from whom would come the Messiah. The 12 stars also represent the 12 Apostles of the New Testament - the Church.
This woman is arrayed with the sun and in Psalm 104.2 we read that God covers Himself with light as with a garment - so the woman is radiant as His bride - Jeremiah 2.2, which is in contrast to the scarlet prostitute we will meet in Chapter 17. Her feet on the moon suggests dominion.
She is pregnant and cries out in labour pains and brings forth Messiah. In Apocalypitc literature the Jews spoke of the birth pains of the Messiah, that is that period of time when the people of God go through a period of trial and pain like a woman in child birth just before the Messiah comes. The people of God go through a certain period of anguish before the Messiah comes. It was true at the first coming of Christ and there is a sense in which it is also true at His Second Coming. In Chapter 17 her children will go through anguish. The language is an echo of Isaiah 26.17 - READ.
What we have then in verses 1-2 is a picture of the true Israel, the Messianic Community in an agony of expectation as the Messiah comes to birth - that is the first sign in this spectacle.