Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Study on Revelation 12: Part Five (The battle in heaven and the casting out of the dragon)

Revelation 12
7 And a battle occurred in heaven. Michael and his messengers battle with the dragon, and the dragon battles, and its messengers.
8 And they are not strong enough for him, neither was their place still found in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, the ancient serpent called Adversary and Satan, who is deceiving the whole inhabited earth. It was cast into the earth, and its messengers were cast with it.

Evidently, the dragon and its messengers are to be cast out of heaven at some point prior to the midpoint of the 70th heptad. However, it’s unclear how much time there will be between the casting out of Satan from heaven and the start of the second 3½ years of the 70th heptad. Although it’s clear that the persecution of Israel through the instrumentality of the wild beast is Satan’s “first move” after being cast out of heaven, the beginning of this time of “great affliction” need not be understood as occurring immediately after Satan is cast out. There could be some unknown duration of time that will transpire between Satan’s being cast out of heaven and the beginning of the “great affliction” at the start of the midpoint of the 70th heptad.

What we do know is that there will be a “battle in heaven” (as opposed to, say, a near-battle, with no actual conflict) before the casting out of Satan takes place. We just don’t know how long the battle in heaven will actually take place. And even though we know who ultimately wins the battle (i.e., Michael and his messengers), there is clearly a sustained fight or contest taking place that will involve both sides of the conflict using whatever power and strategy they have in order to win.

We know that battles on earth can sometimes be lengthy, but we have no idea what a battle in heaven between celestial beings involves, or how long such a battle could take place. Because there is only a brief mention of this battle in one verse of scripture, one might be tempted to think that this battle will begin and end in a matter of hours, or even minutes (I’ve actually read one author boldly state – and without providing any evidence to back up his assertion - that this battle will last “for a couple of hours, at most!”). But for all we know, this battle could last for several weeks, months or even years.

Daniel 10 provides us with some “behind the scenes” insight into the power struggles that take place between celestial beings. Because of his being “withstood” by the “chief of the kingdom of Persia,” it took Gabriel twenty-one days, or three weeks, to reach Daniel after his initial prayer to God – and it was only after being helped by Michael that he was able to complete his divine mission (Dan. 10:2, 10-14). We then read that he would have to return to fight against this “chief” (and after that, the chief of Greece), and that Michael was the only celestial chief who contended by his side against these other chiefs.

From this account we find that celestial beings can be (and perhaps frequently are) involved in lengthy power struggles. If Gabriel’s coming to Daniel took 21 days because of his being withstood by the chief of Persia – and only Michael was able to help him – it’s possible that an all-out battle involving all of the hosts of heaven could last much longer than this. Perhaps the battle in heaven that results in Satan and his messengers being cast out of heaven will be one of the biggest events that the inhabitants of heaven have ever, and will ever, be involved in – a major and climactic chapter in the epic story of these celestial beings (and of which we mortal humans know next to nothing about!).

As has been correctly noted by some, the reason why the dragon and its messengers cease to have “a place found in heaven” is simply that they lose their battle with Michael and his messengers, and are consequently “cast out.” But this doesn’t explain why the battle itself should take place, or what the catalyst for this battle will be. However, when we understand the male child of Rev. 12 to represent that company of saints who constitute the body of Christ, a plausible explanation emerges as to why this battle in heaven will take place around the time that it will: those who are destined to replace Satan and his hierarchy of wicked celestial beings in the heavenly realm will, at this time, be present in heaven. We’re not told whether it is Satan or Michael who instigates the battle, but either scenario is consistent with the view that the catalyst for the battle in the heaven will be the presence of the body of Christ in heaven, and the regime change that this state of affairs will necessitate. 

Something else to consider is the timing of the event referred to as the “dais of Christ,” which is to occur sometime after the snatching away of the body of Christ. It’s evident from Rev. 12:10 that Satan's being cast out of heaven is (in some way) an expression of God's kingdom having come in heaven, and the result of Christ's authority being exercised: “And I hear a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Just now came the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brethren was cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night.’” Whether or not the authority exercised was that of Christ alone or Christ along with those saints constituting his body is not here revealed. It seems clear that the reign of the saints in the body of Christ will begin no later than the start of the next eon (see, for example, Eph. 2:6-7). We’re simply not told whether it begins prior to this time, or not. So it’s possible that the casting out of Satan will be the authoritative decision of Christ alone.

However, if Satan's being cast out of heaven is the ultimate outcome of a judgment that will involve us, it can be reasonably inferred that our standing before the dais of Christ will have to have taken place before the battle occurs in heaven. Although we have no idea how long the dais event will take, this is obviously something that is going to take some amount of time. Thus, according to this view, the snatching away will not only take place sometime before the battle in heaven begins, but before whatever duration of time it will take for the saints in the body of Christ to be awarded for what we did on earth at the dais of Christ.

The “Loud Voice”

10 And I hear a loud voice in heaven saying, "Just now came the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brethren was cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night.
11 And they conquer him through the blood of the Lambkin, and through the word of their testimony, and they love not their soul, until death.
12 Therefore, make merry, ye heavens, and those tabernacling in them! Woe to the land and the sea, for the Adversary descended to you having great fury, being aware that brief is the season that he has."

To whom does the above-referenced “loud voice in heaven” belong? Whomever it belongs to, the speaker is referring to the saints on earth as “our brethren.” Thus, if the “loud voice” belongs to a non-human celestial being, then the “our” must include non-human celestial beings. But if that’s the case, then this would be the only example I know of in which non-human celestial beings refer to mortal human beings as their “brethren.” In fact, the word “brethren” is used a total of four times in Revelation. In the first example (Rev. 6:11) it refers to human saints who are about to be martyred after the opening of the fifth seal. The next example is Rev. 12:10, which we’ve quoted above. In the last two examples, the word is used by a non-human celestial messenger in reference to human beings:

Rev. 19
10 And I fall in front of his feet to worship him. And he is saying to me, "See! No! A fellow slave of yours am I, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Rev. 22
9 And he is saying to me, "See! No! a fellow slave of yours am I, and of your brethren, the prophets and those keeping the sayings of this scroll. Worship God!"

In both of these verses, the celestial messenger does not include himself as being among John’s “brethren.” He does not say “our brethren” but “your brethren.” Rather than speaking of himself as being one of John’s brethren, the messenger identifies himself as a “slave” of John and his brethren (i.e., those “who have the testimony of Jesus” and who are “the prophets and those keeping the sayings of this scroll”). It would seem from these verses that the label “brethren” is reserved for human saints. If that’s the case, then the voice of the one speaking in Rev. 12:10-12 has to be understood as belonging to a member of the body of Christ.

A Study on Revelation 12: Part Four (The identity of the male child, continued)

Revelation 12
5 And she brought forth a son, a male, who is about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club. And her child is snatched away toward God and toward His throne.

Having ruled out the 144,000 as being the company of saints represented by the male child, I must again stress that I see one of the keys to determining the identity of the male child as being found in the fact that John saw him being “snatched away toward God and toward his throne.” As we’ve seen, this fact has undermined both the view that the male child represents Christ, individually, as well as the view that the male child represents the 144,000. Another key to determining the identity of the male child is, I believe, in the fact that his snatching away was seen by John as taking place sometime prior to the time when the woman must flee to the wilderness (which is just before the 3½ year period of “great affliction” begins).

Thus, if there is a company of saints described elsewhere in Scripture that will, in fact, be snatched away “toward God and toward his throne” at some point before the midpoint of the 70th heptad begins, then I think we can reasonably conclude that it is this company of saints whom the male child should be understood as most likely representing. And I believe that there is, in fact, such a company of saints referred to elsewhere in Scripture. The company of saints I have in mind is, of course, that which Paul described as “the body of Christ” and “the ecclesia which is [Christ’s] body” (1 Cor. 12:12-13, 27; Eph. 1:22-23).

Concerning this company of saints, Paul prophesied as following in 1 Thess. 4:15-18:

“For this we are saying to you by the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who are surviving to the presence of the Lord, should by no means outstrip those who are put to repose, for the Lord Himself will be descending from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be together with the Lord.

Ironically, in order to make the snatching away of the male son seem less like a depiction of the snatching away of the body of Christ, some have emphasized that the more accurate translation of Rev. 12:5 is “toward God and toward his throne” (rather than “to God and to his throne”). But rather than pointing away from the snatching away of the body of Christ, this fact actually strengthens the connection between Rev. 12:5 and 1 Thess. 4:17. For the event prophesied by Paul in 1 Thess. 4:17 does not involve the saints in the body of Christ reaching their celestial destination immediately. We are, rather, snatched away to meet Christ “in clouds” and “in the air” first. How long this meeting in the upper atmosphere takes place is not revealed by Paul, but we know that this is the location to which we’ll be snatched away. But the direction in which we will be travelling to reach this atmospheric location can be accurately said to be “toward God and toward his throne” (this is certainly more so the case than any other direction in which one could travel). Thus, the more accurate translation “snatched away toward God and toward his throne” better matches what will actually occur when the body of Christ is snatched away (of course, it’s also possible that, after the meeting in the air take place, we’ll be snatched away again to the throne room of God!).

Moreover, just as the child who is destined to be snatched away is said to be “a son, a male,” so the saints who constitute the body of Christ can be collectively described as male. In Ephesians 4:11-13 we read, “And the same One gives these, indeed, as apostles, yet these as prophets, yet these as evangelists, yet these as pastors and teachers, toward the adjusting of the saints for the work of dispensing, for the upbuilding of the body of Christ, unto the end that we should all attain to the unity of the faith and of the realization of the son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ…”

Christ is, of course, a son and male, so it is appropriate that the saints who constitute the body of which he is the head be collectively described as male in accord with this imagery (this, of course, is in contrast with faithful Israel, which is consistently described in feminine terms; the imagery of the sun-clothed woman is a prime example of this, and elsewhere in Revelation faithful Israel is described as “the bride of the Lambkin”; see Rev. 19:7; 21:9; cf. John 3:29). [1]

The Body of Christ in Prophecy

Some may object to this view of the male child on the grounds that it’s just not possible that the body of Christ could appear in the book of Revelation (even in symbolic form). According to this view, the ecclesia of this present administration is completely absent from all prophecy, and that one’s search for any direct (or indirect) reference to it outside of Paul’s letters would necessarily be in vain. In response to this sort of objection, I need only quote the following remark from Ande Piet: That the Ecclesia could play no role in prophetic passages is an assumption that cannot be proven from Scripture.” Even if it were true that the ecclesia of this present administration was entirely absent – both explicitly and implicitly - from all Hebrew prophesy written before this present administration began and the ecclesia came into existence (which I think is debatable), it wouldn’t mean that there could be no prophetic reference to it after the present administration began and the body of Christ came into existence.

While I don’t see any problem with the idea of the body of Christ being referred to in Revelation, I do think it’s significant that the vision given to John basically “ignores” the entire present administration. Based on what John described as seeing, it would appear as if the male child is snatched away as soon as he is “brought forth” from the sun-clothed woman. Now, it’s possible that the bringing forth of the male son refers to the body of Christ’s being completed at the end of this present administration (i.e., with regards to the last individual, or individuals, chosen for membership in the body of Christ believing Paul’s evangel and becoming sealed with the holy spirit). In this case, the labor of the woman (and the dragon’s standing before her seeking to devour her unborn child) should be understood as spanning the entire duration of the present administration.

Although this view is possible, I’m inclined to understand the “birth” of the male child as figuratively depicting the body of Christ first coming into existence as a corporate entity distinct from faithful Israel (in which case the company of faithful Israelites represented by the woman in verses 1-5 is not the same company of faithful Israelites represented by the woman in v. 6). In any case, this present administration – which has, thus far, spanned nearly 2,000 years of history – is clearly not the focus of the vision in Rev. 12. But this fact should not come as any surprise to the reader. John’s focus in this chapter and throughout Revelation as a whole is on Israel and the nations, and on events involving Israel and the nations during the final years of this eon and beyond.

Brought forth from the woman?

But if the male child represents the ecclesia which is Christ’s body, how can it be said that this company of saints was “brought forth” from faithful Israel? I think there are at least two senses in which it could be said that the body of Christ was “brought forth” from faithful Israel (and, I should note, these two senses are not mutually exclusive).
First, the body of Christ clearly owes its existence to Christ himself. It is our spiritual union with the risen and living Christ that makes us “members of his body.”[2] Christ is the “head” of the ecclesia which is his body (Eph. 5:23) and the one into whom we are growing (Eph. 4:15-16). But of course, Christ himself came out of faithful Israel (as is evident from his lineage); even in what was likely his last letter, Paul emphasized Christ’s descent from David (2 Tim. 2:8). And insofar as Christ is our “head” and was himself “brought forth” out of faithful Israel, it can be said that the body of Christ itself was “brought forth” from faithful Israel. This fact doesn’t make us Israelites, of course. Just as the “male child” is a completely different individual than (and is to be distinguished from) the sun-clothed woman who brought him forth, so we are completely different from faithful Israel, despite the fact that we, in a sense, owe our existence to faithful Israel.

Another sense in which it can be said that the body of Christ was “brought forth” from faithful Israel concerns the nationality of the first members of the body of Christ. Not only was the head of the body (Christ himself) brought forth out of faithful Israel, but the original members of the body of Christ came out of faithful Israel as well. At this point, it may be objected that, although Paul was indeed an Israelite, he was an unbeliever before Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus. In response to this objection, I am not denying that Paul wasn’t a part of faithful Israel before his conversion. However, after his conversion, it is a different story entirely.

There is absolutely no evidence that Paul heard and believed the evangel of the uncircumcision (which is the evangel by which one is “called” into the body of Christ) at the time of his conversion on the Damascus road. At this time, Paul “merely” came to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (which is the evangel of the circumcision). It was even by means of Ananias – an Israelite who was clearly part of the “Israel of God” - that Paul was baptized and “filled with holy spirit” (Acts 9:17). Thus, before Paul became a member of the “ecclesia which is Christ’s body,” he became a part of faithful Israel. Other Jewish members of the body of Christ - such as Barnabas and Apollos – undoubtedly had the same “starting point” as Paul, and were likewise part of the Israel of God before being called through the evangel of the uncircumcision that was entrusted to Paul at some point after his conversion (which may have taken place sometime during Paul’s three-year stay in Arabia).

Shepherding the Nations with an Iron Club

But what about the fact that the male child is said to be “about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club” (Rev. 12:5)? Some may see this as an objection to the view that the male child represents the body of Christ, especially in light of what we read in Rev. 2:26-27. There, we read of Christ exhorting the (Jewish) members of the ecclesia in Thyatira with the following words: "And to the one who is conquering and keeping My acts until the consummation, to him will I be giving authority over the nations; and he shall be shepherding them with an iron club, as vessels of pottery are being crushed, as I also have obtained from My Father.” 

In response to this objection, it must be emphasized that “shepherding all the nations with an iron club” is, first and foremost, the prerogative and prophetic “job description” of Christ Jesus himself (Psalm 2:7-9). Christ – and Christ alone – is the one to whom God directly gave this authority. Certain Israelites (those who are “conquering and keeping [Christ’s] acts until the consummation”) will be privileged with this authority only insofar as it is delegated to them by Christ. But Christ is the one who, ultimately, carries this God-given authority. And not only is Christ the first person referred to in Scripture who we’re told would be given this authority (as prophesied in Psalm 2:7-9), but, according to Rev. 19:14-15, he’s also the first one who will actually exercise it.

Thus, when we read Rev. 12:5, it needs to be kept in mind that “shepherding all the nations with an iron club” is not so much Israel’s “job description” during the eon to come - at least, not inherently or distinctly so - as it is Christ’s. Besides Christ himself, this particular task will, to some degree or another, be performed by whomever Christ delegates his authority to. But if that’s the case, then it would only make sense that those saints who constitute his body (and who can be said to be in a more intimate relationship and union with Christ than even those faithful Israelites to whom Christ will be giving authority over the nations as a reward for their acts) will, likewise, have - and in some way exercise - this authority given to Christ. To assume that we couldn’t possibly be given or exercise this authority because it’s prophetically related to Christ would be like saying we can’t possibly be considered members of the body of Christ since Christ (the Messiah or “Anointed One”) is the central figure of Hebrew prophecy, and inseparably connected with Israel and the kingdom that is to be restored to her. But that, of course, is simply not the case.

Although I once believed that we would have little, if anything, to do with the affairs of earth during the eons to come, I suspect that we’re all going to be somewhat surprised (some of us more so than others) by just how much our work in the heavens and among the celestials will be tied to the affairs of earth, rather than being completely unrelated to them. Just because “our realm is inherent in the heavens” doesn’t mean our work will not involve the people and goings-on of earth in some important way. I think many of the saints in the body of Christ today would affirm that we are destined to replace the wicked celestial hierarchy referred to in Eph. 6:12, and that we’ll be exercising the sort of authority they’ve been exercising while in power, but in a contrastive way that glorifies God and Christ (and which fulfils – rather than violates - what Christ considered to be the two greatest precepts). But if this is the case, then consider the following: Satan and the hierarchy of wicked spiritual beings of which he is the chief have most likely been celestial beings since the beginning of their existence. And yet, they have been - and will continue to be, as long as they are permitted by God - very much involved in the affairs of earth.

The fact that Paul referred to Satan as the “chief of the jurisdiction of the air” (Eph. 2:2) suggests that Satan’s “sphere of influence” is as extensive and all-encompassing as the air that covers the earth (it is no wonder that Paul referred to him as “the god of this eon” in 2 Cor. 4:4). The staggering degree of power and influence that Satan presently has over the kingdoms of the world during “this wicked eon” is confirmed by the fact that, when being tried by Satan, Christ did not dispute his ability to offer him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” in exchange for worship (Matt. 4:8-9). In order for this to have been a legitimate temptation for Christ, it had to have been a legitimate offer.

Moreover - and as noted earlier - some of the highest-ranking celestial beings within the hierarchy headed up by Satan are referred to as the “chiefs” of certain gentile kingdoms (Daniel 10:12-14 and 20-21). Apparently, there are different jurisdictions on earth to which certain celestial “chiefs” have been assigned to oversee. There’s also evidence that God himself is the one who assigned certain celestial beings to different regions of the earth. In Deut. 32:8-9 (ESV), we read: When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.[3] Based on Gen. 6:1-2[4], Job 1:6 and Job 38:7, it can be inferred that the “sons of God” referred to here are celestial beings.

Another passage of Scripture which reveals the relationship that certain celestial beings have to the nations of the earth is found in Psalm 82. In this remarkable Psalm of Asaph, we read as follows:

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:  “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

Based on both the internal evidence of this passage as well as its similarity to other passages in which celestial beings are clearly in view (such as Psalm 89:5-7 and Job 1:6-12; cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22), I think it can be reasonably concluded that the “gods” and “sons of the Most High” present at this “divine council” are, in fact, celestial beings (most likely those same beings constituting the hierarchy referred to by Paul in Ephesians 6:12). In this Psalm, we find God rebuking these beings for their unjust administration, and for the misuse of the authority that God had given them. Rather than making sure that the weak, fatherless, afflicted, destitute and needy are taken care of, these beings instead “show partiality to the wicked,” allowing (or even enabling) the wicked to prosper and take advantage of those less powerful than they. The final verse of this Psalm is especially telling. The Psalmist clearly believed that this unjust state of affairs would be made right when God finally intervened and judged the earth. And the end result of this judgment? “For you [God] shall inherit all the nations!” This plea and expectation of the Psalmist reveals that it is “all the nations” which were being (and continue to be) negatively influenced by the wicked “gods” which God is described as rebuking.

Since it’s clear from these and other passages of Scripture that Satan and the rest of the wicked celestial hierarchy are very much involved in the affairs of the earth (exercising their delegated authority in ways that affect the nations), I think it is likely that those who are destined to replace them among the celestials (i.e., the saints in the body of Christ) will be just as involved in the affairs of the earth. The authority and influence that Satan and other celestial beings have over the gentile kingdoms of which they are “chiefs” is, of course, consistent with there being human kings (as well as other religious and political leaders) exercising their own authority on the earth. But if that’s the case, is it not possible that certain saints in the body of Christ will have similar administrative roles in the eon to come – roles which, like the celestial “sons of God” and “chiefs” referred to in Daniel, may involve some sort of “behind the scenes” activity and intervention on our part? I think that this is not only possible but highly likely.

Like the influence which the wicked “chiefs” of Daniel 10 and the “gods” of Psalm 82 have over the nations, our work during the eon to come may be “behind the scenes” and go largely unnoticed by the inhabitants of the earth. But I’m inclined to believe that we will have just as much of an influence on what takes place on earth as these celestial beings have had (with the main difference being, of course, that we’ll be using our authority over the nations in a way that is just, merciful and compassionate, unlike Satan and the rest of his wicked celestial hierarchy). Our authority and influence over the gentile nations will not be in conflict with Israel’s role as the dominant earthly power, or with the exercise of her political and religious authority during the eon to come; rather, it will complement and harmonize with it.

Part Five: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-study-on-revelation-12-part-five.html



[1] Understanding the male child as the company of saints that constitute the body of Christ could shed some light on an otherwise enigmatic statement made by John in Rev. 12:6. There we read, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, there where she has a place made ready by God, that there they may be nourishing her a thousand two hundred sixty days.” Who was John referring to as “they” here? Although I think it’s possible that John was referring to Michael and his messengers (who are introduced in v. 7), this view is not without problems. If John had in view Michael and his messengers here, why didn’t he simply refer to them as such in v. 6? The use of the word “they” instead might suggest that John is pointing the reader back to a group of people he had already mentioned. Prior to v. 6, the only “characters” which have been introduced are the sun-clothed woman, the dragon, the son/male child, the nations which he will be “shepherding,” and God. The last character mentioned before we get to v. 6 (besides God himself) is the male child. In light of this fact, Andre Piet suggests the following interpretation:

Who are the ‘they’ in verse 6? It cannot be missed that it is the male son, already presented as a people! The Ecclesia is, as Christ’s (administrative-) body, destined for the throne and behind the scenes he will actively be involved in feeding (literally and/or metaphorically conceived) the faithful remnant in the wilderness.”

If the “they” of v. 6 does in fact point back to the male child of v. 5, then this verse would provide us with some fascinating insight into what sort of things we in the body of Christ will be doing during the final years of this eon. It would mean that one of the first tasks that will be assigned to us by Christ after we’ve been glorified will involve serving others.

[2] The “Israel of God” existed on the earth long before Christ was ever conceived and long before he lived on the earth, and continued to exist even while he was dead and entombed for three days and nights. However, the ecclesia which is Christ’s body could not have come into existence before Christ was conceived, nor could it have remained in existence while he was dead.

[3] Other Bible translations that read “sons of God” (or something similar) in Deut. 32:8 are the New American Bible (Revised Edition), the New Revised Standard Version and the Concordant Version of the Old Testament. It should be noted that some Hebrew manuscripts read “according to the number of the sons of Israel” rather than “according to the number of the sons of God,” and the majority of English translations (starting with the KJV) have opted for this reading (with many including the alternative in a footnote). However, this textual variant is almost certainly a corruption of the original text. In an article entitled “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” Michael Heiser provides a compelling defense of the “sons of God” reading. See also http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/Deuteronomy32OTWorldview.pdf.

[4] For a concise defense of the view that the “sons of God” referred to in Genesis 6 were celestial beings, I recommend the following article by Chuck Missler: http://www.khouse.org/articles/1997/110/

A Study on Revelation 12: Part Three (The dragon and the male child)

Revelation 12
3 And seen was another sign in heaven, and lo! a great fiery-red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads seven diadems.
4 And its tail is dragging a third of the stars of heaven, and casts them into the earth. And the dragon stands before the woman who is about to be bringing forth, that it may be devouring her child whenever she may be bringing forth.
5 And she brought forth a son, a male, who is about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club. And her child is snatched away to God and to His throne.

The “great fiery-red dragon having seven heads and ten horns” is later referred to as “the ancient serpent called Adversary and Satan, who is deceiving the whole inhabited earth” (Rev. 12:9). However, as is the case with the seven-horned, seven-eyed Lambkin (Rev. 5:6-7) and the seven-headed, ten-horned wild beast (Rev. 13:1-2), the fiery-red dragon is most likely a composite figure that symbolizes not only an individual but a particular category or group of beings. A.E. Knoch remarks that the dragon’s “seven heads and ten horns introduce us to the great Satanic confederacy which will control the earth at the time of the end.” When John identified this dragon as Satan, he was probably using the figure of speech known as metonymy (according to which an element or part of something – usually well-known or easily recognizable - is used to refer to the whole).

The leader of the organized group of wicked celestial beings represented by the dragon is clearly Satan himself (whom Paul referred to as “the chief of the jurisdiction of the air” in Eph. 2:2 and the “god of this eon” in 2 Cor. 4:4). But we know that he is merely the chief of an entire hierarchy of evil celestial beings, some of which are also referred to as “chiefs” (see Daniel 10:12-14, 20-21). Elsewhere, Paul described the hierarchy of wicked celestial beings headed up by Satan as follows: “Put on the panoply of God, to enable you to stand up to the stratagems of the Adversary, for it is not ours to wrestle with blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world-mights of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials” (Eph. 6:11-2). Notice how Paul first referred to “the Adversary” (singular) and then went on to refer to a hierarchy of wicked celestial beings. This suggests that Paul not only viewed Satan as the leader but also the representative of this group.

But who is the “child” of the woman, whom the dragon is represented as being so eager to devour in v. 4? This question brings us to what is perhaps the most controversial verse of this chapter. Here, again, is v. 5: ”And she brought forth a son, a male, who is about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club. And her child is snatched away to God and to His throne.”

What seems to be the most widely-held view among Christians today (as well as throughout Christian history) is that the male child represents Jesus Christ himself. At first glance, it may seem obvious to some that the male child represents Christ. Certainly, of all the individuals that the male child could be understood as most easily representing, Christ is, of course, the most likely candidate. Concerning Christ’s connection to the male son, Andre Piet remarks, The mention of the “male son” refers directly to Psalm 2. After all, Revelation 12 says: “that He will shepherd (rule) the nations with a rod of iron” which is derived from Psalm 2:8-9. It is about “the anointed one” (Hebrew: Messiah; Greek: Christ) Who was resurrected by God. -Rev.12:5, Rev.19:15-“

Thus, there is a clear connection between the male son and Jesus Christ, as both are directly associated with the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy found in Psalm 2:9-9. However, as Andre goes on to note, the view that the male child represents Christ – and Christ alone - runs into a few serious problems. Most of those who see the male child as representing Christ view the “snatching away” of the male child “to God and his throne” as a reference to Christ’s ascension to heaven. The problem with this view is that the verb translated “snatched away” in Rev. 12:5 (harpazō) is simply not an appropriate word with which to describe Christ’s ascension to heaven, and is never used elsewhere in Scripture to describe Christ’s ascension.[1] On the other hand, one of the words that is used elsewhere to describe Christ’s ascension (anabainō) was used by John just twelve verses before we read of the male child being “snatched away.” In Rev. 11:12, we read: “And they [the two witnesses] hear a loud voice out of heaven saying to them, ‘Ascend here!’ And they ascended (anebēsan) into heaven in a cloud, and their enemies behold them.” This same word is used elsewhere by both John (in John 20:17) and Paul (in Eph. 4:8-10) in reference to Christ’s ascension (these verses also suggest that Christ’s ascension was an event in which he was actively involved, rather than something he passively underwent, as the word harpazō would suggest).[2]

Since it’s highly likely that John would’ve used the word anabainō  (rather than harpazō) had he understood the removal of the male child toward God and his throne to represent the ascension of Christ into heaven, we can reasonably conclude that John did not, in fact, understand what he saw to have been a representation of this historical event. Unlike the words used in reference to the ascension of Christ, the word harpazō never includes the notion of a person’s merely relocating (whether actively or passively) from one spatial location to another, in an upward direction. Rather, harpazō is consistently used in reference to someone or something’s being suddenly seized and forcefully removed. The CLNT Keyword Concordance defines harpazō as “seize with a sudden grasp and carry away, as a wolf its prey” (see John 10:12). While the word is highly appropriate to describe an action performed by someone or something having malicious or destructive intent, it was also used to describe someone’s being quickly and forcefully rescued from harm or a dangerous situation (e.g., Acts 23:10; Jude 23).  

As with the two verses referenced above, the context in which harpazō in used in Rev. 12:5 seems to involve someone’s being rescued from a perilous situation. For the snatching away of the male child in Rev. 12:5 is the means by which the child is rescued from the threat of the dragon that is eagerly seeking to devour him. But Christ was in no danger whatsoever prior to his ascension; there was no perilous situation from which he was rescued, or some threat from which he narrowly escaped by means of his ascension to heaven. One of the last things Christ said before his ascension was that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him (Matt. 28:19)! Assuming Satan posed some sort of threat to Christ prior to his death, it’s inconceivable that any such threat remained after Christ was roused from among the dead and made “Lord of all.”

Thus, not only is the word harpazō in itself not appropriate for describing the ascension of Christ, but the use of harpazō in the particular context of Rev. 12:4-5 (which involves the male child’s being rescued from a perilous situation involving the dragon) makes its application to Christ even more inappropriate and less plausible. Given these considerations, I think we can conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty that the male child of Rev. 12 does not represent Christ, individually. And if that’s the case, then we can also conclude that the male child doesn’t represent an individual at all (for, as noted earlier, if an individual were being represented by the male child, Christ would be the best candidate). Whom or what, then, should we understand the male child as representing?

As with the woman and the dragon, I think it is best to understand the male child as representing a group or category of people, as opposed to a single individual. This view of the male child is most consistent with the rest of the symbolism of this chapter; if the first two symbolic characters appearing in the narrative are best understood as representing groups/categories of people (whether human or otherwise), consistency would naturally lead one to the conclusion that the third character described in the vision should also be understood as representing a corporate entity. And, as is the case with the woman (the “mother” of the male child), it would also be reasonable to interpret the male child as representing a certain company of saints. But which saints?

A.E. Knoch identified the male son with the company of 144,000 Israelites referred to in Rev. 7:3-8 and 14:1-5. However, as argued in part two of this study, I believe it is actually the sun-clothed woman herself who, during the time period in view in Rev. 12:6-17, figuratively represents this particular company of faithful Israelites. Although Knoch considered the gender of the male child as supportive of his view, I noted earlier that the nation of Israel has, from ancient times, been figuratively represented by a woman, and that this figure has never been based on the gender of the people constituting Israel. Given this fact, there is absolutely no reason why an all-male company of faithful Israelites could not be appropriately represented by the same figurative, feminine imagery found in Rev. 12.

In addition to the arguments made in defense of the position that the sun-clothed woman represents the 144,000 during the 70th heptad, I think there is one consideration in particular that rules out the position that the male child represents the 144,000. One of the keys (if not the key) to understanding the identity of the male child is, I believe, found in the fact that the male child is described by John as being “snatched away to God and to his throne.” Any interpretation of the male child that ignores (or has to explain away) the specific wording used by John in Rev. 12:5 is, quite simply, exegetically inferior (and less faithful to the text) than one that places an emphasis on what the text actually says. And that’s what I want to do here.

In v. 5, John described what happened to the male child as his being “snatched away to (literally “toward”) God and to (toward) his throne.” With the exception of chapters 21-22 (after the “new Jerusalem” has descended out of heaven from God), the location of “God and his throne” are consistently depicted in Revelation as being in heaven rather than on the earth (see, for example, Rev. 4:1-2; 8:1-2; 12:10; 13:6, etc.). Thus, if the language of Rev. 12:5 is to be understood as conveying anything meaningful at all, it conveys the idea that the male child will being suddenly and forcibly transported away from the earth in an upwards direction (i.e., “toward God and toward his throne”).

Knoch seemed to interpret the snatching away of the male child toward God and toward his throne as meaning that the 144,000 Israelites will be “separated from the mass of the nation, which flees into the wilderness” and then “sustained by divine sovereignty, in a place where the dragon dare not follow.” This “place where the dragon dare not follow” was understood by Knoch as being “mount Zion,” which Knoch suggested would be “the first spot on earth to be seized and held subject to God's throne.” It is here (according to Knoch) that God “will sustain a select company with power while the rest of His faithful followers flee into the wilderness or give their lives for their faith.” The problem with this view is that we’re not told in Rev. 12:5 that the male child was snatched away to “mount Zion” (which is a place on earth located in Jerusalem). John, of course, could’ve easily written “mount Zion” rather than “God and his throne” had he seen, in the vision presented to him, the male child being snatched away to (or “toward”) this location. But apparently, that’s not what John saw.

When Knoch formulated his theory concerning the 144,000 being supernaturally sustained on mount Zion during the time of great affliction, he undoubtedly had Rev. 14 in view. In v. 1 we read that the 144,000 will, at some future time, be found standing on mount Zion: “And I perceived, and lo! the Lambkin standing on mount Zion, and with It a hundred forty-four thousand, having Its name and Its Father's name written on their foreheads.” However, as with what is said concerning the vast throng in Rev. 7:9-17, the event prophesied in Rev. 14:1 will be fulfilled sometime after the time of great affliction has already ended. We know this because the 144,000 will be standing with Christ (“the Lambkin”), after having apparently followed him to this location (14:4). The scene being described in Rev. 14:1 will, therefore, come to pass at some point after Christ has returned to earth. Given this fact, we can also conclude that the “mount Zion” on which Christ and the 144,000 will be standing at this future time will be the “mountain of Yahweh” referred to in Isaiah 2:1-3 (which will be the sight of the future temple in Jerusalem during the eon to come):

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of Yahweh shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem.”

Apparently, major topographical changes will occur in the land of Israel at the time of Christ’s return to the earth (Zech. 14:3-5). These changes will result in Jerusalem’s becoming elevated above the rest of the surrounding land (which, in Zech. 14:10, we’re told will be turned into a plain). At this time, mount Zion will be the most elevated location in Israel, and it is here that the prophecy found in Rev. 14 concerning Christ and the 144,000 will be fulfilled. Where, exactly, the 144,000 will be prior to this time is not here revealed by John. However, as I’ve argued in part two of this study, the 144,000 will most likely constitute the company of faithful Israelites represented by the sun-clothed woman during the time of the end. Thus, their place of protection during the time of great affliction will be somewhere in the mountainous wilderness region outside the land of Judea. After Christ returns to earth and defeats the hostile forces from which this company of faithful Israelites had to be supernaturally protected in the wilderness, they will then join Christ on top of mount Zion in Jerusalem and celebrate his victory.

Part Four: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-study-on-revelation-12-part-four.html




[1] The three terms used to describe the ascension of Christ are found in Mark 16:19 and Acts 1:11 (analambano, “to take up”); Acts 1:9 (epairo, “to be lifted up”); and John 20:17 and Eph. 4:8-10 (anabaino, “to ascend”).

[2] Moreover, in contrast with the suddenness that the word harpazō conveys, we also have some reason to believe that Christ’s ascension to heaven was relatively gradual rather than being an event that involved his being suddenly and forcefully removed from the earth. In Acts 1:9-11, we read: And saying these things, while they are looking, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him up from their eyes. And as they were looking intently into heaven at His going, lo! two men stand beside them in white attire, who say also, ‘Men! Galileans! Why do you stand, looking into heaven? This Jesus Who is being taken up from you into heaven shall come thus, in the manner in which you gaze at Him going into heaven.’” The fact that Christ begins to be “lifted up” while he is still talking to his disciples (“and saying these things…He was lifted up”) implies that the ascension did not involve Christ’s suddenly travelling a great distance before the disciples knew what was happening.

A Study on Revelation 12: Part Two (Identifying the sun-clothed woman)

In his blog article entitled “The Snatching Away of the Son,” Andre Piet makes short work of the two most common theories within Christendom concerning the identity of the woman:

“The woman in Revelation 12 is, in the [Roman Catholic Church], traditionally explained as being Mary. That association is quickly made: after all, she is the woman who brought forth the son (who would be the Messiah). But that is where the explanation stays stuck, because everything else that is said about this woman is impossible to apply to Mary. The traditional Protestant explanation says that the woman pictures “the church”. To this idea they come, because they believe that “the Church” exists from the time of Adam to the last day. The “church” brought forth the Son, who will shepherd all nations…. In addition that this explanation is not able to do justice to the many details (1260 days, flight to the desert, etc.), it is not true, anyway, that “the church” would have brought forth the Son. Indeed, it is exactly the other way round.”

I think the traditional Protestant interpretation of the sun-clothed woman is closer to the truth than the Catholic view only insofar as it sees her as representing some group or category of people. But it’s simply not tenable to view her as “the church” (if by “the church” one is including that corporate group of saints described by Paul as “the body of Christ”). But if the woman doesn’t represent “the church,” then who is she?

In light of Genesis 37:9-10 (where similar imagery involving the sun, the moon and stars is used to represent the first family of Israel), I think this “woman” most likely represents Israel. Joseph and his eleven brothers are, of course, the individuals from whom the twelve tribes of Israel descended, and just as Joseph’s eleven brothers are represented as eleven stars in his dream (Gen. 37:9-10), so the woman is said to have a wreath consisting of twelve stars, representing the twelve patriarchs and tribes of Israel (and not merely the twelve apostles, as some have suggested).

In defense of the view, Andre Piet remarks as follows: “The “woman” is practically the standard reference in the prophets for Israel. The book of Hosea is completely based on that data. The LORD is the Husband and Israel His wife. He has covenanted with her a marriage covenant at Sinai. In many tonalities is this data elaborated upon by the prophets. Since the book of Revelation is the capstone of the prophetic books, we can assume in advance that where a woman is presented as symbol (“… there was a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman …”) this must refer to the people of Israel. -Hosea 3:1-5; Isa.54:4.5, etc.

In his book The Unveiling of Jesus Christ, A.E. Knoch went so far as to say that “It seems superfluous to insist that the sun-clothed women is faithful Israel.” I agree with Knoch on this point, and it needs to be emphasized that, by identifying the woman as “Israel,” I do not mean every natural descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who could claim these patriarchs as their ethnic ancestors. Rather, I mean those descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom Knoch referred to as “faithful Israel.” Paul had this Israel in mind when he wrote, “Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Rom. 9:6). In Galatians 6:16 Paul referred to this category of saints as the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). It is this Israel which, in Paul’s day, constituted the “remnant according to the choice of grace” (Rom. 11:6), and who will be enjoying an allotment in the kingdom of God on the earth during the eons to come.

Now, as noted earlier, the company of Israelites whom the sun-clothed woman represents – i.e., faithful Israel, or the “Israel of God” - has been constituted by different individuals in every generation since the nation of Israel first came into existence. Those who constituted faithful Israel in Paul’s day are not, of course, the same individuals who will constitute faithful Israel during the 70th heptad. And yet, both groups of people can legitimately be referred to as “Israel,” or as “the Israel of God.”

If the time in history when the sun-clothed woman brings forth her “male child” (Rev. 12:5) is different than the time when the sun-clothed woman must flee into the wilderness (v. 6), then it means that two different companies of faithful Israelites living at two different times in history are in view in this chapter. Before we determine if this is in fact the case, however, we need to try and identity which company of Israelites is being represented by the sun-clothed woman in v. 6 (i.e., when she is described as fleeing into the wilderness). Does Scripture elsewhere describe a group of Israelites who, prior to the return of Christ, will have to flee into a wilderness area to escape a life-threatening situation? Yes, it does.

Just prior to the start of the second half of the 70th heptad, there will be a company of Israelites living in Jerusalem and the surrounding land of Judea who will find themselves in the perilous position of having to flee for their lives in order to escape the persecution of the “dragon.” This flight was foretold by Christ in his Olivet Discourse as follows:

Matthew 24
15 "Whenever, then, you may be perceiving the abomination of desolation, which is declared through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him who is reading apprehend!);
16 then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.
17 Let him who is on the housetop not descend to take away the things out of his house.
18 And let him who is in the field not turn back behind him to pick up his cloak.
19 "Now woe to those who are pregnant and those suckling in those days!
20 Now be praying that your flight may not be occurring in winter, nor yet on a sabbath,
21 for then shall be great affliction, such as has not occurred from the beginning of the world till now; neither under any circumstances may be occurring.
22 And, except those days were discounted, no flesh at all would be saved. Yet, because of the chosen, those days shall be discounted.

It is this event which, I believe, is being symbolically represented in Rev. 12:6:And the woman fled into the wilderness, there where she has a place made ready by God, that there they may be nourishing her a thousand two hundred sixty days.”

Verse 6 is likely parenthetical. After describing the destiny of the “male child” in v. 5 (which we’ll look at later), John provides just enough information to reassure his readers that the woman is safe as well (she is, after all, the main protagonist of the drama that John saw unfold in this particular vision). However, it must be noted that the fleeing of the woman does not occur immediately after the snatching away of the male child. There is, instead, another important event (or series of events) which transpire in between the snatching away of the male child and the fleeing of the woman into the wilderness. After John covers this intervening complex of events in verses 7-12 (which we’ll also be looking at in part five of this study), he then returns to the subject of what happens to the woman, and provides the reader with more information than that given earlier in verse 6. In verses 13-17, we read:

13 And when the dragon perceived that it was cast into the earth, it persecutes the woman who brought forth the male.
14 And given to the woman were the two wings of a large vulture, that she may be flying into the wilderness into her place, there where she is nourished a season, and seasons, and half a season, from the face of the serpent.
15 And the serpent casts water as a river out of its mouth after the woman, that she should be carried away by its current.
16 And the earth helps the woman, and the earth opens its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon casts out of its mouth.
17 And the dragon is angry with the woman, and came away to do battle with the rest of her seed, who are keeping the precepts of God and who have the testimony of Jesus.

These verses correspond to the future event that will involve Israelites having to flee the land of Judea in order to survive the time of “great affliction” that will begin shortly after the “abomination of desolation” comes to be “standing in the holy place.” The 1,260 days of v. 6 and the “season, seasons and half a season” of v. 14 refer to the same period of time – i.e., the second half of the 70th heptad. Those Israelites who, in response to the prophecy-fulfilling events going on in Israel, obediently heed Christ’s warning to flee from the land of Judea into the mountains, will at this time constitute the “Israel of God” represented by the sun-clothed woman in John’s vision. It would also appear that this company of Israelites will be provided supernatural protection both during and after their flight from Judea. But is there anything more that can be said concerning the identity of the Israelites whom the sun-clothed woman will represent at this future time? I think so.

In chapter seven of the book of Revelation, John provides his readers with two (and only two) broad categories of faithful, believing Israelites who will be on the earth during the time period with which Revelation is concerned in chapters 1-19 (i.e., the time of the 70th heptad). It is the Israelites in these two categories who, I submit, will constitute the “all Israel” which (according to Paul in Rom. 11:25-27) will be saved at Christ’s return. The two categories of Israelites are:

1. “A hundred forty-four thousand” who are to be ”sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:3-8; 14:1-5); and

2. “A vast throng which no one was able to number, out of every nation and out of the tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9-17).

If, at the time period in view in Rev. 12:6, the sun-clothed woman is to be understood as representative of some or all of the Israelites that will constitute one of these two groups, it must be the 144,000 and not the “vast throng.” In order to see why this is so, let’s first consider who it is that will most likely comprise the “vast throng.”

In chapter 22 of his book The Unveiling of Jesus Christ, A.E. Knoch has, I believe, persuasively argued in defense of the position that the “vast throng” will be comprised of Israelites rather than gentiles. Knoch begins this chapter with the following remarks:

“THE hundred and forty-four thousand are the firstfruit of the millennial harvest (14:4; Lev.23:10). The vast throng are symbolized by the festival of ingathering (Lev.23:39-42). They appear with palm branches in their hands (7:9). They dwell in the tabernacle or booth of the Enthroned One (7:15). These, as well as the hundred and forty-four thousand who are sealed, are able to stand in the great day of His indignation.”

Knoch goes on to say, All the symbolism employed places them among the saved of the sacred nation. Israel itself did not keep the feast of ingathering (Neh.8:16,17) until after the return from Babylon. Then they celebrated it with great rejoicing (Ezra 3:11,12). How can it possibly figure a company of aliens, to whom these festivals do not apply? It was never kept in the wilderness, because it was reserved for the land, when they dwelt in houses. It was to remind them of the wilderness, when they dwelt in booths.

“All this typical teaching is for naught if we transfer this scene to the nations. We have a firstfruit, but no harvest, in Israel. We have a limited number saved, all males, scarcely more than one per cent of the nation. We have the favored people doubly decimated, and bring unnumbered aliens into their fold. The vast throng, as well as the hundred and forty-four thousand are Israelites, to whom the promises pertain.”

For Knoch, the strongest argument supporting the view that the vast throng will consist of Israelites is found in the fact that they are said to be “those coming out of the great affliction” (Rev. 7:14). As Knoch points out, the expression “great affliction” is “a special phrase denoting the sufferings of the faithful in Israel at the hands of the other nations.” See Christ’s words in Matthew 24:19-21, where the same expression is found (for a more in-depth look at what this “great affliction” will involve, how long it will last and where else it is referred to in Scripture, see part four of my study on the timing of the snatching away).

The vast throng is said to consist of people who are out of every nation and out of the tribes and peoples and languages.” Rather than identifying these people as gentiles, this language identifies them as the descendents of those Israelites who were scattered and dispersed among all the nations, and who today exist throughout the world instead of in the land of Israel (incidentally, the fact that people from all over the world will be coming out of the “great affliction” can be understood as further evidence that the great affliction will be worldwide in scope rather than merely local and confined to the land of Israel, as some have claimed). For more examples of references to the dispersion of Israelites among all the nations (or where the occurrence of such a dispersion in the past is implied), see Deut. 30:1-3; Isaiah 11:12; Ezekiel 6:8-10; 11:16-17; 20:23-24; 22:15; 36:17-20; Dan. 9:7; Acts 2:5, 8-11; James 1:1.

In contrast with the “vast throng” are the 144,000 Israelites who are first referred to in Rev. 7:3-8, and later in chapter 14.[1] Unlike the vast throng, the Israelites who will constitute the 144,000 are not said to be out of every nation and out of the tribes and peoples and languages.” It would, therefore, be reasonable to infer that this company of Israelites will actually be dwelling in the land of Israel when they are “bought” and “sealed” by God at some point prior to (or, more likely, during) the 70th heptad. If this is the case (which, again, seems plausible), then there can be no doubt that, when the sun-clothed woman is represented as fleeing into the wilderness for protection, she represents the 144,000 sealed and faithful Israelites, who will at this time be a “firstfruit to God and to the Lambkin.”

I think some students of Scripture may be “thrown off” by the fact that the 144,000 are said to be male, and from this fact conclude that this company of Israelites couldn’t possibly be represented by a woman (and thus making the “male child” a better candidate, in their view). But to make this assumption would be erroneous, and would be to lose sight of the fact that Israel has always been figuratively represented by a woman. This figurative imagery has never been about the gender of the people constituting Israel; even if every person constituting Israel was male, this company of Israelites could still be appropriately represented with the same figurative, feminine imagery found in Rev. 12.

Besides, what better way could a company of 144,000 faithful and “firstfruit” Israelites be represented than with that symbol which even A.E. Knoch acknowledged represents faithful Israel (i.e., the sun-clothed woman)? Such a sterling company of Israelites as the 144,000 - who are described as “flawless” in Rev. 14:5 - surely have just as must of a claim (if not more) to the privileged title “Israel of God” as any number of Israelites who came to faith in Christ through the ministry of the twelve apostles. And when we keep in mind that John has described only two broad categories of Israelites previously in Revelation, it seems unavoidable that, when the sun-clothed woman is described as fleeing into the wilderness, she - at this point in her history – should be understood as representing the first category of Israelites described by John in chapter 7 (those who are later described as “a firstfruit to God”).

That those constituting faithful Israel at the time the woman flees into the wilderness are the 144,000 seems even more likely when we consider the distinction that is made between the sun-clothed woman and another category of saints in Rev. 12:13-17. After we read about the woman fleeing into the wilderness where she is protected and nourished for 3 ½ years, we read about a company of saints who are described as “the rest of her seed, who are keeping the precepts of God and who have the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). Since those represented by the woman in verses 13-17 are faithful Israelites who will be living in the land of Israel during the first half of the 70th heptad (and who will be fleeing into the wilderness/mountains just before the time of great affliction begins), it follows that those in the second category referred to in v. 17 will consist of people who will, at this time, be living outside of the land of Israel (i.e., among the nations). The “rest of her seed” are, in other words, those who will come to comprise the “vast throng” described in Rev. 7:9-17. Concerning v. 17, A.E. Knoch remarks as follows (emphasis mine):

“The dragon, having been foiled in its attempts to destroy the woman, now turns its attention to those who were not included in this exodus. Doubtless there will be faithful ones all over the earth, who are not in Jerusalem or its vicinity when these things occur. These now become the object of its anger. Doubtless these are the vast throng which no one was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and languages, who come out of the great affliction (Rev.7:9-14).”  http://concordant.org/expositions/unveiling-jesus-christ/32-sun-clothed-woman-male-son/

Understanding the fleeing woman as the 144,000 and “the rest of her seed” as the vast throng harmonizes well with the fact that the 144,000 are referred to as “a firstfruit to God and the Lambkin.” By the time we get to Rev. 12:6, the “Israel of God” represented by the sun-clothed woman will be comprised of Israelites living during the 70th heptad. Thus, whoever it is that constitutes the “rest of her seed” in v. 17 wouldn’t be able to exist as the “seed” of the woman unless those represented by the woman were already “on the scene,” so to speak. And just as the woman during the 70th heptad (faithful Israel) exists chronologically prior to the “rest of her seed,” so the 144,000 – being “a firstfruit to God” - are redeemed chronologically prior to the “vast throng.”

The last consideration I’ll mention in support of who I believe the sun-clothed woman represents during the 70th heptad involves the idea of God’s providing supernatural protection to people on the earth during the day of the Lord. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 Israelites is for the purpose of protection and preservation during the time of great affliction (this seems to be implied by what we read in Rev. 7:3-8 and Rev. 9:1-4). We also know from Rev. 12:14-16 that the woman will be supernaturally protected by God during (and after) her flight into the wilderness, and that this divine protection will last throughout the time of great affliction. Thus, unlike those who will constitute the “vast throng,” the entire company of Israelites represented by the woman in chapter 12 will be preserved through the time of great affliction. Not a single individual in this company of faithful Israelites will be killed by the “dragon.” Thus, we find that the idea of supernatural protection on the earth (and in the midst of the time of great affliction) pertains to both the 144,000 and the sun-clothed woman. This strongly suggests that the same company of individuals is in view in both passages (with the former being a literal depiction of this company and the latter being symbolic).

In contrast with the sun-clothed woman, there is no indication that the “male child” is provided supernatural protection on the earth during the 3½ year period of great affliction. In fact, it’s clear from Rev. 12:5 that the male child won’t have to be provided supernatural protection on the earth during this time. This is because, at some point prior to when the woman must flee into the wilderness, we read that the male child is going to be completely removed from the earth (for, as we’ll see in the next section, the direction of his removal is said to be “toward God and toward his throne”). Apparently, God has other plans for this “male child” – plans that don’t involve being on the earth during the time of great affliction.


Part Three: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-study-on-revelation-12-part-three.html



[1] I believe there is some significance to the fact that those to whom Christ was speaking when he gave his instructions concerning fleeing into the mountains after the abomination of desolation is set up were his twelve disciples, privately (Matt. 24:1-3). The twelve disciples were, of course, all males – just like the 144,000 Israelites described in chapter 7 and 14. And, of course, the number “144,000” is 12 multiplied by 12,000. Although by no means conclusive evidence, I find this fact at least highly suggestive, and as pointing to the strong possibility that the 144,000 will be the ones who will heed the instructions that Christ gave to the original twelve disciples in Matthew 24:15-18.

Interestingly, according to the most recent statistical data, there are approximately 6 million Jews living in the land of Israel today (of this number, approximately 500,000 live in Jerusalem alone). If, at this very hour, 144,000 male Israelites dwelling in present-day Israel were to flee into the mountains beyond the land of Judea, they would constitute merely 2.4% of the total population of Jews living in Israel today.