Who are the woman and her child in Revelation 12?

In the first five verses of Revelation 12, we read about a woman, a dragon, and the woman’s “male child.” Who are they?  

This is an article in the series on Revelation 12. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the NASB.


Summary

Who is the Male Child?

Revelation 12:5 reads:

She gave birth to a son, a male child,
who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and
her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

His mother is clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet (Rev 12:1). She was expecting him “in pain to give birth” (Rev 12:2), meaning that she is longing intensely for his arrival. The dragon, identified as Satan, stood ready to devour him as soon as he is born (Rev 12:3-4, 9). But the male child “was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5). Who else could this be, other than Jesus Christ? As Mark 16:19 states, “the Lord Jesus … was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”

More specific identification is His description as the One “who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5). Revelation 2:27 explicitly states that His Father gave Jesus that “rod of iron.” And Revelation 19:11-21, describing Christ’s return, says that the One “called the Word of God” (Rev 19:13), a title which John also elsewhere uses for Jesus (John 1:1, 14), will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Rev 19:15)

Revelation 12:5, therefore, describes the entire period from Christ’s birth to His ascension. Therefore, the previous verses must describe the time before Christ and the subsequent verses describe the time immediately after His ascension.

Who is the woman?

Most commentaries identify the male child as Jesus Christ. However, there are various views as to the identity of the woman, including:

      • Mary – the literal mother of Christ;
      • The church, i.e., the followers of Christ;
      • Israel, i.e., the literal nation of Israel; and
      • God’s People, meaning the true believers from all times and nations and denominations.

Below, we first discuss various indications of the identity of the woman and conclude with a summary:

1) She gave birth to Christ.

The church came into existence after Christ. The church, therefore, did not give birth to Christ and cannot be the woman of Revelation 12.

2) She is beautiful in God’s sight.

The woman is beautiful in God’s sight. For example, she is “clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1). Since Israel was not always beautiful, the woman does not seem to symbolize literal Israel.

3) Her other children hold to Jesus.

The rest of the woman’s children “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17). This seems to eliminate literal Israel, for it does not “hold to the testimony of Jesus.

4) The woman is a symbol.

Revelation is a book of symbols. The immediate context also indicates that this woman is a symbol. For example, she appears as “a great sign … in heaven,” stands on the moon, and is confronted by a “great red dragon” (Rev 12:1-3). Therefore, the woman should not be interpreted as a literal woman such as Mary.

5) God describes His people as His wife.

The Old Testament symbolizes the relationship between God and His people as a marriage; God is the husband and Israel is His “wife.” And, when Israelites are unfaithful to Him, Israel is called an adulteress (e.g. Jer 3:8; Exo 34:15; Deut 31:16).

The New Testament describes the relationship between Christ and His church in the same way (e.g., 2 Cor 11:2).

The harlot and wife imagery of Revelation, therefore, must be interpreted accordingly:

    • The great harlot” (Rev 17:1-2, 5) must not be understood as literal harlotry but as unfaithfulness to the only true god (Yahweh).
    • The bride, the wife of the Lamb” refers to the true followers of Christ (Rev 19:7; 21:9).

Given that the Bible pervasively uses husband/wife symbolism for the relationship of God to people, the beautiful woman of Revelation 12 should be understood as symbolizing God’s true worshipers.

6) The woman is persecuted.

Jesus warned that the church will be persecuted (e.g., Matt 24:9). Therefore, the mere fact that the woman of Revelation 12 is persecuted, forcing her to flee into the wilderness (Rev 12:4, 6, 14-15), means that she symbolizes God’s people.

Furthermore, she hides in the wilderness for “a time, times, and half a time” (Rev 12:14) and for 1260 days (Rev 12:6). These two periods are the same and also the same as the 42 months mentioned elsewhere in Revelation. This period is mentioned several times in Daniel and Revelation and always is the period of persecution of God’s people, namely when:

      • The saints of the Highest One are worn down (Dan 7:25),
      • The power of the holy people is shattered (Dan 12:7),
      • The holy city is trampled under foot (Rev 11:2),
      • God’s two witnesses prophesy clothed in sackcloth (Rev 11:3), and
      • The beast overcomes the saints (Rev 13:5-7).

Since, during this same period, the woman is hiding in the wilderness, it follows that the woman symbolizes the saints; the holy people. All of these symbols mean the same thing, namely that God’s people will be despised and persecuted.

7) She is the woman of Genesis 3.

In God’s judgments following Adam’s sin, as recorded in Genesis 3, we read:

14 The LORD God said to the serpent,

“… 15 … I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children …”

There are several links between this and Revelation 12:1-5:

1) Both mention a woman bearing a child.

2) Both mention the severe pain in childbirth (Gen 3:16; Rev 12:2).

3) The dragon of 12:3 is later explained as “the serpent of old” (Rev 12:9), which takes us back to the serpent in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:14).

4) God said that there would be “enmity” between the woman and the serpent. Similarly, in Revelation 12, “the dragon (the serpent) stood before the woman” (Rev 12:4).

5) Both passages refer to Jesus Christ; He is both the seed promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15 and the “male child” in Revelation 12:5.

These links imply that Revelation here converts the woman in Genesis 3 into a symbol. Consequently, the promise in Genesis 3 of a savior that will be born from the woman implies that the woman in Revelation 12:1-2, who is expecting a male child, symbolizes all people before the time of Christ who were hoping for the savior promised by God in Genesis 3, including all God’s people who lived before Israel existed and also all non-Jews who lived after Israel came into existence.

Consequently, the woman of Revelation 12 cannot be limited to Mary or to literal Israel or to the New Testament church.

8) She is God’s people.

In several ways, a high-level analysis of the second half of Revelation (chapters 12-22) will show that the woman in Revelation 12 is a symbol of God’s people:

Who participates in the war?

Firstly, the second half of Revelation describes the war between Christ and Satan. It begins in chapter 12 with an overview of that war. In that overview, the war on earth is between the dragon and the woman. But the subsequent chapters explain that war in more detail, including that:

The dragon works through many allies, including the sea beast (Rev 13:1) and the land beast (Rev 13:11).

Through its allies, the dragon wage war against God’s people, for example, against the 144000 (Rev 14:1) and “those who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2).

So, in the subsequent explanation of Revelation 12, the woman symbolizes God’s people.

Begin and end with a woman

Secondly, the description of the war between Christ and Satan in the second half of Revelation (Rev 12-22) begins before the time of Christ (Rev 12:1-5) and ends at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:7), a thousand years after Christ has returned. It describes various entities involved in that war but, at both the beginning and at the end, it describes both the dragon and a woman:

It begins with a woman and a dragon in Revelation 12.

It ends when the dragon (Satan) is destroyed in “the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev 20:10) while “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” is received in “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:9, 1).

By implication, it is the same woman at both the beginning and the end. Therefore, since the woman at the end is explicitly Christ’s bride (Rev 21:9), the woman at the beginning is also the bride, which is a familiar concept referring to the followers of Christ (e.g., 2 Cor 11:2; John 3:29; Luke 5:35).

9) She exists always everywhere.

In Revelation, there are two women who are also cities:

    • As discussed, Christ’s bride and the New Jerusalem are two perspectives of the same thing (Rev 21:9-10).
    • And “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots” is “the great city” (Rev 17:5, 18).

The harlot and the bride, therefore, are opposing counterparts. The previous section showed that the bride is the same as the woman in Revelation 12. Consequently, the woman in Revelation 12 and the harlot are opposing counterparts, meaning that they are the same type of thing, but in the opposing camps: What the harlot is in Satan’s army, the woman is in Christ’s army. Therefore, we are able to identify the woman by identifying the harlot.

Another article series shows that Babylon always exists. For example, she is guilty of the deaths of all of God’s people who died for their faith in all ages (Rev 18:24; cf. 17:6; 19:2). It also shows that Babylon is worldwide. For example, she sits on “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (Rev 17:15).

The woman of Revelation 12, as the opposing counterpart of Babylon, therefore, presumably, also always exists and is also worldwide. Consequently, she cannot be limited to Israel or to the church or to Mary; the literal mother of Jesus.

10) Revelation merges the church into Israel

The most important argument against the proposal that the faithful woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes literal Israel is that the Book of Revelation does not distinguish between Israel and the church. Rather, as discussed elsewhere, Revelation merges the church into Israel. For example:

Revelation uses one of the things in the Jewish temple, namely, the seven-fold lampstands, to symbolize the seven churches (Rev 1:20).

The New Jerusalem” – a symbol of God’s people (Rev 21:9-10) – has written on it the names of both the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev 21:12, 14).

Revelation, therefore, is consistent with Paul’s analogy of the olive tree, from which some natural Jews branches were cut off and some wild Gentiles branches were grafted in (Rom 11:16-24).

Conclusions

The table below summarizes the criteria to determine who the woman is by identifying which of the alternative interpretations are eliminated by which criteria. The four alternative interpretations are as follows:

      • Mary – the literal mother of Christ;
      • The church, i.e., the followers of Christ;
      • The literal nation of Israel; both before and after Christ; and
      • God’s People from all times and nations and denominations.
The woman … Mary Church Israel God’s People
1. She gave birth to Christ. No
2. She is beautiful in God’s sight. No
3. Her other children proclaim Jesus. No No
4. The woman is a symbol. No
5. God describes His people as His wife. No
6. The woman is persecuted. No
7. She is the woman of Genesis 3. No No No
8. She is God’s people. No
9. She exists always everywhere. No No No
10. Revelation merges the church into Israel. No No

The only alternative that fulfills all criteria is “God’s people.” If God’s people are defined as the true believers from all times and places, it is a wider concept than Paul’s olive tree (Rom 11:16-24) because it also includes believers from before the time of Israel and believers outside Israel during the time of Israel.

 – END OF SUMMARY – 


Who is the Male Child?

Revelation 12:5 is a good place to begin the discussion of this chapter because it gives us an anchor to a specific point in history. It reads:

She gave birth to a son, a male child,
who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and
her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

For the following reasons, this “male child” is Jesus Christ:

Firstly, who else could be described as the unique child of a woman who is represented as clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet (Rev 12:1)? This woman has many other children (Rev 12:17), but this “male child” stands out far above them all because the woman is said to be expecting him “in pain to give birth” (Rev 12:2), meaning that she is longing intensely for his arrival.

Secondly, for who else would the dragon, identified as Satan, stand ready to devour him as soon as he is born (Rev 12:3-4, 9)?

Thirdly, the dragon is also identified as “the serpent of old” (Rev 12:9). This refers to the serpent in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:1) and reminds us of God’s promise that the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). By implication, the “male child” in Revelation 12 is that promised seed.

Fourthly, this “male child” will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5). Who could that be other than Christ? Furthermore, Revelation 2:27 explicitly states that His Father gave Jesus the authority to rule the nation with “a rod of iron.” And Revelation 19:11-21, describing Christ’s return, says that the One “called the Word of God” (Rev 19:13), a title which John also elsewhere uses for Jesus (John 1:1, 14), will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Rev 19:15)

Lastly, the male child “was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5). Who could this be other than Christ? It refers to His ascension to heaven. As Mark 16:19 states, “the Lord Jesus … was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”

Revelation 12:5, therefore, covers the entire period from Christ’s birth to His ascension.

Since Christ is so pertinently identified in this verse, the previous verses must describe the time before Christ and the subsequent verses describe the time immediately after Christ’s ascension.

Who is the woman?

Purpose

The woman “gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5). Most commentaries identify this male child as Jesus Christ. However, there are various views as to the identity of the woman, including:

Mary: The Catholic Church identifies the woman in Revelation 12 as Mary; the literal mother of Christ; to whom it refers as the Mother of God (Theotokos), “the All-Holy,” who lived a perfectly sinless life (Catechism 411, 493), and the co-mediator to whom people can entrust all their cares and petitions (Catechism 968-970, 2677). See – Worship of Mary.

The church, i.e., the followers of Christ, including those from the nation of Israel;

Israel, i.e., the literal nation of Israel; both before and after Christ; and

God’s People, meaning the true believers from all times and nations and denominations.

Below, we first discuss various indications of the identity of the woman and conclude with a summary:

1) She gave birth to Christ.

The church came into existence after Christ. The church, therefore, did not give birth to Christ and cannot be the woman of Revelation 12.

2) She is beautiful in God’s sight.

The woman is beautiful in God’s sight, for she is “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Since Israel was not always beautiful, the woman does not seem to symbolize literal Israel.

3) Her other children proclaim Jesus.

The rest of the woman’s children “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17). Literal Israel seems to be eliminated by this indication, for it seldomly kept God’s commandments and certainly did not and does not “hold to the testimony of Jesus.” 

4) The woman is a symbol.

Revelation is a book of symbols. Furthermore, there are many indications in this vision that this woman is a symbol. For example:

Both the woman and the dragon are described as signs in heaven (Rev 12:1, 3). The word “sign” (sémainó) means “to give a sign.” It implies that the thing seen is not literal.

The woman is clothed with the sun (Rev 12:1). People are not clothed with the sun. The woman’s clothes might relate to Jesus’ face, which “was like the sun shining in its strength” (Rev 1:16).

She stands on the moon (Rev 12:1) – not literally.

She has “a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1) – not literal stars.

She is opposed by “a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns” (Rev 12:3-4) – not a literal dragon. See – The identity of the beasts with seven heads of the Book of Revelation.

The dragon’s tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth (Rev 12:4) – not literal stars or a literal tail. The stars symbolize angels or people and the tail might be interpreted in terms of Isaiah 9:15 as “the prophet who teaches falsehood.”

The dragon intended to “devour her child” (Rev 12:4) but not literally. This symbolizes that Satan (see Rev 12:9) was expecting the Messiah and knew that the Messiah was promised to crush his head (Gen 3:15). He, therefore, attempted to cause the Messiah’s mission to fail in any way possible.

Given the symbolic nature of this vision and the entire book of Revelation, we must not think that the woman literally first stands on the moon and then goes to a literal wilderness (Rev 12:6). And it would be inappropriate to identify the woman as a single literal person such as Mary. The safe approach to interpreting the entire Book of Revelation is to assume that everything in it is symbolic unless it is clearly literal.

5) God describes His people as His wife.

The symbolism in Revelation does not exist in a vacuum but is derived from the rest of the Scriptures.

The Old Testament symbolizes the relationship between God and His people as a marriage; God is the husband and Israel is His wife. For example:

Your Maker is your husband” (Isa 54:5-6; see also Ezek 16:8; Hos 2:14-20).

When Israel was faithful, positive marriage language was used. When Israel was not faithful, the language of adultery, divorce and prostitution can be used. For example:

For all the adulteries of faithless Israel,
I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce,
yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear;
but she went and was a harlot also
” (Jer 3:8; see also
Hos 2:1-13; Jer 3:6-10; Ezek 16 and 23).

Since God is the only true god, God referred to the worship of false gods as playing the harlot. For example:

The inhabitants of the land … would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods” (Exo 34:15).

This people (Israel) will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them” (Deut 31:16).

The New Testament describes the relationship between Christ and His church in the same way: Christ is the husband and His people are His wife. For example:

I betrothed you to one husband,
so that to Christ I might present you
as a pure virgin
” (2 Cor 11:2; see also Eph 5:25-32; Rev 19:7-8).

The harlot and wife imagery of Revelation, therefore, must be interpreted accordingly:

When Revelation talks about “the great harlot,” or “acts of immorality” (Rev 17:1-2, 5; 18:3), it must not be understood as literal harlotry or immorality but as unfaithfulness to the only true god (Yahweh).

And when Revelation refers to “the marriage of the Lamb,” “His wife,” and to “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7; 21:9), these must be understood as references to the true followers of Christ.

Given that the Bible pervasively uses husband/wife symbolism for the relationship between God and people, the beautiful woman of Revelation 12 should be understood as symbolizing God’s true worshipers.

6) The woman is persecuted for a Time, Times, and Half a Time.

Jesus warned that the church will be persecuted. He said, for example:

They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matt 24:9).

Therefore, the mere fact the woman of Revelation 12 is persecuted, forcing her to flee into the wilderness where she would be hidden from the serpent (Rev 12:4, 6, 14-15), means that she symbolizes God’s people.

More explicitly, her wilderness experience is explained as follows:

The woman fled into the wilderness
where she had a place prepared by God,
so that there she would be nourished
for one thousand two hundred and sixty days
” (Rev 12:6).

The two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman,
so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place,
where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time,
from the presence of the serpent
” (Rev 12:14).

These two verses describe the same event because, in both:

      • The woman
      • Flees / flies “from the presence of the serpent
      • To the wilderness,
      • To a place that is hers,
      • Where she would be “nourished,”
      • For a specific period.

While the dragon rules in places of abundance, the wilderness symbolizes a place of obscurity and hardship.

Since these two verses describe the same event, the “time and times and half a time” is equal to the 1260 days. They are also mathematically the same:

a time and times and half a time
= 3½ times = 3½ years = 42 months
= 42×30 = 1260 days

(In Old Testament times, people used the moon cycle to count months, giving approximately 30 days per month.)

A further indication that they are the same is that this period (3½ times = 42 months = 1260 days) is mentioned several times in Daniel and Revelation and always is the period of persecution of God’s people:

The period of “a time and times and half a time” is first mentioned in the book of Daniel as the period during which the evil horn will “wear down the saints of the Highest One … and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time” (Dan 7:25),

And later: “A time, times, and half a time … shatter … the power of the holy people” (Dan 12:7);

In Revelation: “They will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months” (Rev 11:2);

The 1260 days is also the period when God’s “two witnesses … will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth” (Rev 11:3);

And the beast receives “authority to act for forty-two months … to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Rev 13:5-7).

So, during this period:

    • The saints of the Highest One are worn down,
    • The power of the holy people is shattered,
    • The holy city is trampled under foot,
    • God’s two witnesses prophesy clothed in sackcloth, and
    • The beast overcomes the saints.

All of these symbols mean the same thing, namely that, during this period, God’s people will be despised and persecuted. Since, during this same period, the woman hides in the wilderness, she symbolizes the saints, the holy people, and the holy city; i.e., God’s people.

The reader is perhaps not familiar with “the holy city.” As explained below, it relates to “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9-10), which symbolizes God’s people (2 Cor 11:2).

7) She is the woman of Genesis 3.

There are several links between Revelation 12 and God’s judgments of Adam’s sin, as recorded in Genesis 3:

14 The LORD God said to the serpent,

“… 15 … I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children …”

Therefore, both Genesis 3 and Revelation 12 mention:

1) A woman;

2) Pain of childbirth – Revelation 12:2 goes out of its way to emphasize the woman’s childbirth pains. If we had only been told that she was crying out in birth pangs, we would have had enough to understand the situation, yet Revelation adds that she was in the agony of giving birth. It is as if we are invited to make a connection with Genesis 3 and remember that Eve’s punishment was essentially the pain of delivering children (Gen 3:16).

3) A serpent – The dragon, which stands before the woman (Rev 12:3-4) is identified as “the serpent of old” (Rev 12:9), referring back to the garden of Eden; and

4) Jesus Christ (Rev 12:5), who is the seed promised to Eve.

Revelation frequently converts literal things from the Old Testament into symbols. These similarities between Genesis 3 and Revelation 12 imply that Revelation here converts the promise in Genesis 3 into a symbol. Consequently, the promise in Genesis 3 of a savior who will be born from the woman implies that the woman in Revelation 12:1-2, who is expecting a male child, symbolizes all people before the time of Christ who has been waiting eagerly for the savior (Gen 3:15). Therefore:

The symbol of the woman does not include natural Israelites who were not true believers: “They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Rev 9:6).

But it does include all God’s people who lived before Israel existed and also all non-Jews who lived after Israel came into existence.

Consequently, the woman of Revelation 12 cannot be limited to Mary or to literal Israel or to the New Testament church.

The pain of the woman’s labor symbolizes the acuteness of their longing.

8) She is God’s people.

In several ways, a high-level analysis of the second half of Revelation (chapters 12-22) will show that the woman in Revelation 12 is a symbol for God’s people:

Who participates in the war?

Firstly, the second half of Revelation describes the war between Christ and Satan. It begins in chapter 12 with an overview of that war. In that overview, the war on earth is between the dragon and the woman. But the subsequent chapters explain that war in more detail, including that:

The dragon works through many allies, including the sea beast (Rev 13:1) and the land beast (Rev 13:11).

Through its allies, the dragon wage war against God’s people, for example, against the 144000 (Rev 14:1) and “those who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2).

So, in the subsequent explanation of Revelation 12, the woman symbolizes God’s people.

Begin and end with a woman

Secondly, the description of the war between Christ and Satan in the second half of Revelation (Rev 12-22) begins before the time of Christ (Rev 12:1-5) and ends at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:7), a thousand years after Christ has returned. The intermediate chapters describe various entities involved in that war but, at both the beginning and at the end, it describes both the dragon and a woman:

It begins with a woman and a dragon in Revelation 12.

It ends when the dragon (Satan) is destroyed in “the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev 20:10) while “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” is received into “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:9, 1).

By implication, it is the same woman at both the beginning and the end. Therefore, since the woman at the end is explicitly Christ’s bride (Rev 21:9), the woman at the beginning (in Revelation 12) is also the bride.

Who is the bride? In the New Testament, “His bride” is a familiar concept referring to the followers of Christ (e.g., 2 Cor 11:2; John 3:29; Luke 5:35). Revelation also identifies the bride as such. For example:

The bride is clothed in “fine linen, bright and clean” (Rev 19:7-8). This “fine linen” is explained as “the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8). And, elsewhere, we read, for example, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life” (Rev 3:5; cf. Rev 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 22:14). The bride’s clothes, therefore, identify her as God’s people.

In Revelation 21:9-10, the angel told John that he will show him “the bride.” However, when John looked, he saw “the holy city, Jerusalem.” This is one of the hear/see combinations in Revelation where John first hears about something and then sees something that seems very different, but the two are two perspectives of the same thing. Since only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life are allowed to enter into the city (Rev 21:27; 22:14), and since the bride and the city are two perspectives of the same thing, the bride also consists of the redeemed only.

To summarize this section, Revelation 12-22 both begins and ends with a woman and a dragon. It is the same dragon at both ends. That implies that it is also the same woman at both ends. Since the woman at the end is the bride, the woman of Revelation 12 is also the bride, and the bride symbolizes God’s people.

The two woman-cities

Thirdly, in Revelation, there are two women who are also cities:

      • As discussed, Christ’s bride and the New Jerusalem are two perspectives of the same thing (Rev 21:9-10).
      • And “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots” is “the great city” (Rev 17:5, 18).

Since the harlot and the bride are opposing women-cities, and since we should not expect two different women on God’s side of the great war, the woman in Revelation 12, by implication, is Christ’s bride.

9) She exists always everywhere.

The previous section showed that the harlot and the bride are opposing counterparts. It also showed that the bride is the same as the woman in Revelation 12. Consequently, the woman in Revelation 12 and the harlot are opposing counterparts, meaning that they are the same type of thing, but in the opposing camps: What the harlot is in Satan’s army, the woman is in Christ’s army. Therefore, we are able to identify the woman by identifying the harlot.

A separate article series is available that discusses and identifies the Babylon in Revelation:

It shows that Babylon always exists. For example, she is guilty of the deaths of all of God’s people who died for their faith in all ages (Rev 18:24; cf. 17:6; 19:2).

It also shows that Babylon is worldwide. For example, she sits on “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (Rev 17:15).

The woman of Revelation 12, as the opposing counterpart of Babylon, therefore, also always exists and is also worldwide. Consequently, she cannot be limited to Israel or to the church or to Mary; the literal mother of Jesus.

10) Revelation merges the church into Israel.

The most important argument against the proposal that the woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes literal Israel is that, as discussed in another article, the Book of Revelation does not distinguish between Israel and the church. Rather, Revelation merges the church into Israel. For example:

(a) Revelation uses one of the things in the Jewish temple, namely, the seven-fold lampstands, to symbolize the seven churches (Rev 1:20).

(b) “Those who had been victorious over the beast … sang the song” of both Moses and the Lamb (Rev 15:3); the two main characters in the Old and New Testaments.

(c) “The New Jerusalem” – a symbol of God’s people (Rev 21:9-10) – has written on it the names of both the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev 21:12, 14).

(d) John hears about 144,000 Jews but then sees the innumerable multitude from ALL NATIONS (Rev 7:4, 9). As discussed, Revelation uses such hear/see combinations to describe different perspectives OF THE SAME THING (e.g., Rev 5:5-6; 17:1, 3).

(e) In the seven letters, there are people “who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9; 3:9). In this context, to claim to be a Jew is a claim to be a true Christian (cf. Rom 2:28-29). What value would a claim to be a literal Jew have in a Christian context?

Revelation, therefore, is consistent with Paul’s analogy of the olive tree, from which some natural Jews branches were cut off and some wild Gentiles branches were grafted in (Rom 11:16-24). The many references in the book of Revelation to Jewish things, such as the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, therefore, must be understood as referring to Christians.

Conclusions

The table below summarizes the criteria to determine who the woman is by identifying which of the alternative interpretations are eliminated by which criteria. The four alternative interpretations are as follows:

      • Mary – the literal mother of Christ;
      • Church, i.e., the followers of Christ, including those from the nation of Israel;
      • Israel – the literal nation of Israel; both before and after Christ
      • God’s People, meaning the true believers from all times and nations and denominations.
The woman … Mary Church Israel God’s People
1. She gave birth to Christ. No
2. She is beautiful in God’s sight. Noa
3. Her other children proclaim Jesus. No No
4. The woman is a symbol. No
5. God describes His people as His wife. No
6. The woman is persecuted. No
7. She is the woman of Genesis 3. No No No b
8. She is God’s people. No
9. She exists always everywhere. No No No
10. Revelation merges the church into Israel. No No

The only alternative that fulfills all criteria is “God’s people.” If God’s people are defined as the true believers from all times and places, it is a wider concept than Paul’s olive tree (Rom 11:16-24) because it also includes believers from before the time of Israel and believers outside Israel during the time of Israel.

Notes:

(a) Her description seems to be an application of Joseph’s vision in which his father Jacob (renamed as Israel) is represented as the sun, his mother as the moon, and the twelve sons of Israel as twelve stars (Gen 37:9-11). However, since Revelation merges the church into Israel, this does not mean that this woman is limited to Israel.

(b) “The people of God,” as a group, did expect the Messiah before He came, even though they continued to exist after He came.


Other Articles

2 Replies to “Who are the woman and her child in Revelation 12?”

  1. Just something to consider. A symbolic woman giving birth to a literal man child? Also, Jesus was not “caught up” but rose slowly. Should the man child not also be symbolic – that of a body of people, namely, the Body of Christ?

    1. Would it be right to say that Jesus is a literal man? Yes, He is a literal man but He is also much more than a literal man.

      I understand the “caught up” in contrast to the dragon seeking to devour the male child, namely, that He was saved from the dragon. I do not see that as a reference to His literal ascension.

      Much of the differences in interpretations are what people assume to be literal or symbolic. In my view, everything in Revelation is symbolic. But we need to interpret the symbols consistent with the rest of the Scriptures, for example, the many references in Revelation 12 to the deception in the Garden of Eden lead us to understand the male child to be the one promised in Genesis 3:15, and that “seed” we understand to be Jesus Christ.

      Furthermore, the male child is caught up to God’s throne and, in Revelation, it is always Jesus who sits with His Father on His Father’s throne. For example, Jesus said, “I … sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21). He is “in the center of the throne” (Rev 7:17). And, “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in” the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:3).

Your comment is important.

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other