In the book of Revelation, chapter 12, the apostle John describes his vision of a heavenly woman:
Rev. 5, 12:1-2: Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. ... And she bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.
Who is this mysterious woman? If we pay careful attention to the symbols employed in this figure, we find that her identity is clearly revealed in scripture.
Gen. 37:9-11: Then he [Joseph] dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Jacob understands immediately the symbols of Joseph's dream. He identifies the sun with himself, the moon with Rachel, and the eleven stars as Joseph's eleven brothers. We can apply Jacob's interpretation of Joseph's dream to the symbols used in the figure of the heavenly woman of Revelation 12.
The woman is clothed with the sun; this represents Jacob. The moon under her feet represents Rachel. The garland of twelve stars on her head represents the twelve sons of Jacob. Joseph himself is the twelfth star. The woman gives birth to a male child who would rule all nations with a rod of iron. The male child is the Christ. The woman represents Israel. However, it is not the earthly nation of Israel which she represents, but spiritual Israel.
When we consider that this woman, who represents spiritual Israel, is pictured as a mother, we find another portion of scripture which further identifies her.
Gal. 4:22-29: For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar -- for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children -- but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. ... Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.
Paul uses another symbol of Israel to identify the mother mentioned in Galatians, chapter 4. He speaks of the "Jerusalem above" and says that she is the "mother of us all"; that is, the mother of all the saints.
It is interesting to note the contrasts Paul uses here between the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem. The earthly Jerusalem is connected with the Mosaic covenant, bondage, and the flesh. The heavenly Jerusalem is connected with the covenant of promise, freedom, and the spirit. Paul then declares that the saints are children of promise. Thus, the heavenly Jerusalem represents spiritual Israel which is a symbol of the church.
The woman of Revelation 12 represents the church; that is, the saints of all ages. The promise refers to the original promise made to Abraham that in his Seed, Christ, all the peoples of the earth would be blessed, beginning with the firstborn saints.
Heb. 12:22-23: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven ...
[All scriptural references are taken from the NKJV.]
Copyright © 1996 by Deborah Cox
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