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THE APOSTOLIC PERIOD The twelfth chapter of Revelation introduces an important line'of prophetic truth respecting the The star-crowned church, beginning with these woman
words: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (verses 1, 2, 5, 6).
As we have already stated and as will be made very clear hereafter, symbols drawn from human life are used to represent ecclesiastical affairs. Therefore in the symbol now before us we have a representation of the church, and from the general description given we infer that it must be the pure church of God, for the brightest luminaries of heaven are gathered around her and no evil thing is said concerning her. That this woman is the special object of God's care and concern is further showin by the fact that when she fled into the wilderness, she had "a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there.” That this interpretation of the woman is correct is also shown by other texts in Revelation.
In chapter 21:9 an angel talking with John said, “Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.” And again, in chapter 19:7, where the church is undoubtedly referred to, a great multitude is represented as saying, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” In the seventeenth chapter the church apostate is without doubt described by the symbol of a vile, polluted harlot.
The pure woman of chapter 12, then, represents the apostolic church in all its beauty and glory. She is represented as clothed with the sun, a striking emblem of the light of the glorious gospel of Christ which shone forth from the early church. The moon under her feet is generally understood to designate the typical worship of the Jewish age, which was a shadow of things to come but which now stands eclipsed in the superior light and glory of the new and better dispensation. The moon is the lesser light and derives its illumination from the sun; so also the Mosaic period was the moonlight age of the church and reflected a part of the gospel which, at a later time, was to be revealed in all its glory with the rise of the “Sun of righteousness."
The crown of twelve stars adorning the diadem of the church is a fit representation of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, they being in one important sense permanent fixtures in the church. According to chapter 1: 20, stars are sometimes used to represent Christian ministers, the analogy as light-givers being obvious. “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
The prominent position occupied by this woman and the light which shone forth from the sun with which she was clothed stand out in marked contrast with the later description given of her flight into and seclusion in the wilderness. The latter stage of her experience I shall describe further on, but a brief allusion to it will make her first appearance more impressive. The wilderness describes the apostasy which was to envelop the woman and thus obscure her light. Therefore her first appearance as in the planetary heavens presents a sublime description of her dignity and excellence in the morning time of the gospel era. Her light shone upon all and her glory could be seen by all. She presents that fundamentally distinct characteristic of the true church of God-universality; not a mere isolated star shedding its feeble rays in competition with the other orbs of night; but a cluster of bright, shining stars and the very sun itself. The light of the apostolic church was, therefore, all-inclusive in the sense of reflecting all the truth. It is essential to our proper understanding of the symbols that follow that we comprehend the true character of the church of God - the bride of Christ.
The next object to claim our attention in the vision under consideration is that of the man child The man child to whom the woman is said to give birth. A variety of interpretations of this man child have been given. Some say that it refers to Jesus Christ, but this application is objectionable for different reasons. First, Jesus is everywhere represented as the founder of the church, not as its child. Second, true analogy is lacking: there is nothing about a mere child to proclaim divinity. Others have identified the child with the Emperor Constantine; but here again the consistent use of symbolic language is overlooked; for if the woman, the mother, represents the church, then the child born of her can not represent a single, definite individual, but rather a collection of individuals or another phase of the church itself. In other words, if the one single symbol represents a particular individual, the other must also represent an individual. Thus, if the man child is identified with Christ, the mother should signify the Virgin Mary; or if Constantine is intended, then Helena, mother of Constantine, should be represented by the woman.
It is clear, however, that the woman signifies, not a single individual, but the church. Therefore the child born of her must simply signify another phase of the church but the same family. By means of this twofold symbol-involving the closest relationship known-is set forth the fruitfulness and perpetuity of the church. There is also another reason why a double symbol should be selected to set forth the true church-to represent two distinct phases of the church's life and history, which, in the nature of the case, could not be represented under a single symbol. According to the description given, the man child was caught up to God and to his throne, while the woman remained on earth and fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God for 1,260 days. The man child, then, represents that phase of the church which was caught up from the earth but ascended to heaven and there lived and reigned with Christ; while the woman represents that phase of the church which continued on earth and fled into the wilderness during the period of the great apostasy.
There is also direct Scriptural testimony justifying this interpretation of the man child. In Isaiah 66 we have a sublime description of Zion, God's church and people, represented as a woman, a mother. The context shows that this scripture is a prophetic allusion to the church of the New Testament age. “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of