At the beginning of the 12. Chapter of the Revelation John tells of his vision of a pregnant woman who is about to give birth. He sees her in radiant splendor - clothed in the sun and the moon under her feet. On her head is a wreath or a crown of twelve stars. Who are the women and the child related to?
In Genesis 1 we find the story of the biblical patriarch Joseph, who had a dream in which a similar scene was revealed to him. He later told his brothers that he had seen the sun, the moon, and eleven stars that bowed to him (Genesis 1:37,9).
The portraits in Josef's dream clearly related to his family members. It was Joseph's father Israel (Sun), his mother Rachel (Moon) and his eleven brothers (Stars, see Genesis 1:37,10). In this case, Josef was the twelfth brother or “star”. Israel's twelve sons became populous tribes and grew into a nation that became God's chosen people (Deut 5).
Revelation 12 radically changes the elements of Joseph's dream. He reinterprets them with reference to spiritual Israel - the church or the assembly of God's people (Galatians 6,16).
In Revelation, the twelve tribes do not refer to ancient Israel, but symbolize the whole church (7,1-8). The woman clothed with the sun could portray the Church as the radiant bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11,2). The moon under the woman's feet and the crown on her head could symbolize her victory through Christ.
According to this symbolism, the “woman” of Revelation 12 represents God's pure church. Bible scholar M. Eugene Boring says: “She is the cosmic woman, dressed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and crowned with twelve stars Messiah produces " (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, "Revelation", p. 152).
In the New Testament, the church is known as spiritual Israel, Zion and “the mother” (Galatians 4,26; 6,16; Ephesians 5,23-24; 30-32; Hebrews 12,22). Zion-Jerusalem was the idealized mother of the people of Israel (Isaiah 54,1). The metaphor was carried over to the New Testament and applied to the Church (Galatians 4,26).
Some commentators see the symbol of the woman of Revelation 12,1: 3 as broad. The picture, they say, is a reinterpretation of Jewish beliefs about the Messiah and pagan myths of redemption with reference to the experience of Christ. M. Eugene Boring says: “The woman is neither Mary nor Israel nor the Church, but less and more than all of them. The pictures that John used bring together several elements: the picture of the pagan myth of the Queen of Heaven; from the story about Eve, the mother of all living, from the first book of Moses, whose "seed" crushed the head of the primeval serpent (Genesis 1: 3,1-6); of Israel who escapes the dragon / pharaoh into the desert on eagle wings (Exodus 2: 19,4; Psalm 74,12: 15); and Zion, the 'mother' of God's people in all ages, Israel and the Church ” (P. 152).
With this in mind, some biblical commentators in this section see references to various pagan myths as well as to the story of Joseph's dream in the Old Testament. In Greek mythology, the pregnant goddess Leto is persecuted by the dragon Python. She escapes to an island where she gives birth to Apollo, who later kills the dragon. Almost every Mediterranean culture had some version of this mythical battle in which the monster attacks the champion.
The image of the revelation of the cosmic woman brands all these myths as false. It says that none of these stories understands that Jesus is the Savior and that the Church is the people of God. Christ is the son who slays the dragon, not Apollo. The church is the mother of and for whom the Messiah comes; Leto is not the mother. The Goddess Roma - the personification of the Roman Empire - is actually a type of international spiritual prostitute, Babylon the Great. The true queen of heaven is Zion, which is the church or people of God.
Thus, the revelation in the story of women exposes old political and religious beliefs. British Bible scholar GR Beasley-Murray says that John's use of the Apollo myth "is an amazing example of communicating Christianity through an internationally known symbol" (The New Century Bible Commentary, "Revelation," p. 192).
Revelation also represents Jesus as the Redeemer of the Church - the long-awaited Messiah. In this way, the book finally reinterprets the meaning of the Old Testament symbols. BR Beasley-Murray comments: “By using this means of expression, John has at one stroke claimed the fulfillment of pagan hope and the Old Testament promise in the Christ of the Gospel. There is no other Savior except Jesus " (P. 196).
Revelation 12 also exposes the main enemy of the Church. He is the fearsome red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns on his head. The revelation clearly identifies the dragon or the monster - it is "the old serpent called Devil or Satan that seduces the whole world" (12,9 and 20,2).
Satan's earthly proxy - the beast from the sea - also has seven heads and ten horns and is also scarlet in color (13,1 and 17,3). Satan's character is reflected in his earthly representatives. The dragon personifies evil. Because ancient mythology had many references to dragons, John's listeners would have known that Revelation 13's dragon was a cosmic enemy.
What the seven heads of the dragon represent is not immediately clear. However, since John uses the number seven as a symbol of completeness, this may indicate the universal nature of Satan's power and that he fully embodies all evil in himself. The dragon also has seven tiaras or royal crowns on its heads. They could represent Satan's unjustified claim against Christ. As Lord of Lords, all crowns of authority belong to Jesus. He is the one who will be crowned with many crowns (19,12.16).
We learn that the dragon "swept away the third part of the star of the sky and threw it on the earth" (12,4). This fraction is used several times in the Book of Revelation. Perhaps we should understand this expression as a significant minority.
We also get a short biography of the "boy" of the woman, a reference to Jesus (12,5). Revelation here tells the story of the Christ event and refers to Satan's unsuccessful attempt to thwart God's plan.
The dragon tried to kill or "eat" the woman's child at the time of its birth. This is an indication of a historical situation. When Herod heard that the Jewish Messiah was born in Bethlehem, he killed all the small children in the city, which would have resulted in the death of the baby Jesus (Matthew 2,16). Of course, Jesus escaped to Egypt with his parents. Revelation tells us that Satan was indeed behind the attempt to murder Jesus - to "eat" him.
Some commentators believe that Satan's attempt to "eat" the child of the woman is also his temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4,1: 11), obscuring the gospel message (Matthew 13,39) and inciting him to crucify Christ (John 13,2). By killing Jesus through the crucifixion, the devil may have assumed that he had won a victory over the Messiah. In fact, it was Jesus' death himself who saved the world and sealed the fate of the devil (John 12,31; 14,30; 16,11; Colossians 2,15; Hebrews 2,14).
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus, the child of women "was caught up to God and his throne" (12,5). That is, he was raised to immortality. God has elevated the glorified Christ to a position of universal authority (Philippians 2,9-11). It is destined "to graze all peoples with an iron staff" (12,5). He will graze the peoples with loving but absolute authority. These words - "all peoples rule" - clearly identify who the child's symbol refers to. He is God's anointed Messiah, who is chosen to rule all over the earth in God's kingdom (Psalm 2,9; Rev 19,15).