Look into the sky on a clear night, and what do you see? Stars. And if you’re stargazing in the Northern Hemisphere, any evening between late spring and early autumn, two constellations will greet your eyes. Virgo and Draco.
Both of these are sizable constellations. Virgo is the second largest of the constellations, and Draco comes in eighth place. Virgo is Latin for “Virgin,” and Draco is Latin for “Dragon.” Draco “literally snakes its way through the northern sky,” and you can find its tail “between the bowl of the Big Dipper and the star Polaris.”
The Apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 1:19-20 that,
What can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made.
John continues the book of Revelation by pointing out to the world that all of church history can be taught through the stars. He writes as follows in Revelation 12:1-6,
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in labor and agony as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: There was a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and 10 horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. His tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. And the dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she did give birth he might devour her child. But she gave birth to a Son—a male who is going to shepherd all nations with an iron scepter—and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be fed there for 1,260 days.
To be fair, the only connections here to constellations are the two phrases: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman,” and “Another sign appeared in heaven: There was a . . . dragon.” (However, there are several specific references to stars [cf. 12:1, 4].) Everything else is simply using these two constellations as teaching tools.
The point ultimately proves Paul’s conclusion as found in Romans 1:20,
As a result, people are without excuse.
You see, it’s at this point that John begins again. Prior to this, he had been weaving a continuous picture (at least starting in chapter 4). But last time, we reached “the end.” As such, John is now giving us the same story–from a different perspective–so that he can reach an even wider audience.
“Hey, you Greeks, you know those stars you tell stories about. Here’s one for you!”
What begins being told here carries through at least to the end of chapter 14 (though the metaphors of women recur both in Revelation 17 [the antithesis of this woman] and Revelation 21 [this woman again]).
But today, we want to focus on 6 verses. It breaks down easily. The first two verses (and the last two verses) describe God’s people, and the middle two verses describe the enemy of God’s people. (The rest of chapter 12 expands on portions of these first six verses, but we will look at those in the coming weeks.)
However, instead of breaking the passage down by who is being focused on, it will prove more encouraging to expand on three specific themes that prove the following thesis:
God sovereignly controls the flow of history, protecting His people.
The Age-Old Struggle
In the first two verses, the people of God are clearly Israel. The reference to “sun,” “moon,” and “12 stars” is a clear connection to Genesis 37:9, where we read Joseph relating his dream:
Look,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun, moon, and 11 stars were bowing down to me.”
This is further proven by the fact that the story of Israel is one of suffering and misery. Labor pains are supposed to give way to joy. The metaphor of a woman in labor is common in the Old Testament prophets.
But not only that, the first prophecy in the Bible is related to a woman giving birth and a serpent (dragon?) being antagonistic:
I will put hostility between you and the woman,Genesis 3:15
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.
Fast-forward to the beginning of the next book of the Bible, and we find that the target of antagonism is the children:
Pharaoh then commanded all his people: “You must throw every son born to the Hebrews into the Nile, but let every daughter live.”Exodus 1:22
As we journey throughout biblical history, we see this theme repeated. It finds a particularly strong description in Psalm 137.
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,Psalm 137:8-9
happy is the one who pays you back
what you have done to us.
Happy is he who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rocks.
However, that this is not vitriol for vengeance’s sake. Rather, this is an example of the lex talionis, “eye-for-an-eye” (cf. Exodus 21:23-25). The Edomites (cf. Psalm 137:7) were guilty of murdering Jewish babies, so the Jews here hope for the Edomites to experience themselves what the Edomites had forced the Jews to experience.
And then, Jesus is born. And what do we see? We see the dragon attempting to destroy “the seed of the woman.” Matthew relates:
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men.Matthew 2:16
Interestingly enough, Herod himself is a descendant of Edom. But God had already brought Jesus out of Bethlehem, so even though the dragon raged, the people of God were protected.
“But what about the other male babies in Bethlehem?” you ask.
Well, no answer will be completely satisfactory, but i would point out that if Jesus had perished when He was around two years old, salvation would be closed to us. And Jesus Himself said,
Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.Mark 10:14
Therefore, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, children who perish are able to come to Jesus, able to have salvation, able to be joined to the people of God. Because Jesus was spared Herod’s murderous rage, all the babies who perished therein are able to call themselves God’s people.
The United People of God
It is worth noticing that the woman described in 12:1 is the same one who gives birth to the child, and also the same one who is protected in the wilderness. However, this does not mean that God will rapture the church and then resume His plan with Israel. No! It means what Paul says in Romans 9:
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.Romans 9:4-5
Jesus came through Israel. God chose Israel to be the nation through which the Messiah would come. As such, Israelite (Jewish) individuals have been a part of the people of God (cf. Romans 9:6), but the promise of Genesis 3:15 was made to mankind (Adam and Eve were the only humans alive at the time), and the Old Testament reveals non-Jews being saved and added to the people of God: Abraham (himself an early Babylonian), Rahab (a Canaanite), Namaan (an Aramean), the Ninevites (Assyrians). In the New Testament–and up to the modern-day–the people of God appear to be almost exclusively non-Jews (Christians), though there are many Messianic Jews who do believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
Paul’s words are true:
For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.Ephesians 2:14-15
There is further proof of this in our passage today.
God’s Historical Protection
The people of God are Christians. They are also Jews who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah. These are the people God has promised to protect in the wilderness (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; 6:13).
It behooves us at this point to refer back to Revelation 11:1-14 (specifically verse 3). There we saw that the church’s witness would last for 1,260 days. How long does John say the woman is protected in the wilderness?
This woman is the same referent as the two witnesses of Revelation 11. This is merely a different “angle” of observation. In Revelation 11, John was highlighting the church’s prophetic nature; in Revelation 12, John is highlighting God’s sovereign protection of the church.
God will protect His people. Even if God’s people die (cf. Revelation 6:9-11), Paul triumphantly declares,
I am persuaded that not even death or life,Romans 8:38-39
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
God controls history. He’s pasted proof of this in the stars. The dragon is chasing the woman. However, the woman will always escape. As a result, it behooves us to place our faith in Jesus and become part of God’s people.
There are only two categories of people: Those who belong to God and those who do not. Those who do will be protected. Those who do not will face judgment.
You do not want to face God’s judgment. Place your faith in Jesus today–the one who will “shepherd all nations with an iron scepter” (Revelation 12:5). I’ll let the psalmist close us out:
Why do the nations rebel
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand,
and the rulers conspire together
against the Lord and His Anointed One:
“Let us tear off their chains
and free ourselves from their restraints.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord ridicules them.
Then He speaks to them in His anger
and terrifies them in His wrath:
“I have consecrated My King
on Zion, My holy mountain.”
I will declare the Lord’s decree:
He said to Me, “You are My Son;
today I have become Your Father.
Ask of Me,
and I will make the nations Your inheritance
and the ends of the earth Your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
You will shatter them like pottery.”
So now, kings, be wise;Psalm 2:1-12
receive instruction, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with reverential awe
and rejoice with trembling.
Pay homage to the Son or He will be angry
and you will perish in your rebellion,
for His anger may ignite at any moment.
All those who take refuge in Him are happy.
The choice is yours: Be crushed, or find safety in Him by submitting to Jesus in faith.
I pray for your salvation!
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.
The next entry can be found here.