And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet…
It has been wisely said, "The Revelation of St. John gives no regularly progressive disclosure of the future, advancing in unbroken series from beginning to end; but it falls into a number of groups, which, indeed, supplement each other, every successive vision giving some other aspect of the future, but which are still formally complete in themselves, each proceeding from a beginning to an end." We have but just heard the accents of the shout of final triumph. Now we are thrown back again to scenes of strife, and conflict - the prevailing condition until the end cometh. This section is preparative. The agents in the great strife are set before us in symbolical form - "signs." The things signified it behoves us to seek to know.
I. THE FIRST IS THE SIGN OF "A WOMAN ARRAYED WITH THE SUN, AND THE MOON UNDER HER FEET, AND UPON HER HEAD A CROWN OF TWELVE STARS." In this we are to see a symbolical representation of the Zion of God - the Church; not the Christian in contradiction to the Jewish; but the true Israel of God - under the Old and perpetuated in New Testament times. Not an unfamiliar figure of both Old and New Testaments to represent the Church as a woman, whether a bride or a mother (Isaiah 54:5, 6; Revelation 21:2, 9). Is the sun that glory of God which now lightens the holy city; and the moon the previous, the lesser light which ruled the comparative night before the morning star appeared? The crown of the Church is ever the twelve tribes supplanted by the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
II. THE SECOND SIGN IS THE MAN CHILD BORN OF THE WOMAN. Christ in his human nature, born of that Church which for so long before his coming endured the pangs of travail. From the bosom of the people of God, Christ according to the flesh came. This is he of whom it is declared, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me... thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron."
III. THE THIRD SYMBOL OR SIGN IS "A GREAT RED DRAGON, HAVING SEVEN HEADS AND TEN HORNS, AND ON HIS HEADS SEVEN DIADEMS." The interpretation of this is given explicitly in ver. 9. The seven heads may fitly represent the multiplied worldly powers which the evil one brings against Christ and his Church, and in the ten horns may be hidden a reference to that great world power which, in the days of St. John, sought, as the agent of Satan, to destroy the Church of Christ. The whole scene is expressive of the great powers which from the beginning wage war with the Lamb.
IV. A FOURTH SIGN IS FOUND IN THE ATTITUDE OF THE RED DRAGON BEFORE THIS WOMAN, SEEKING TO DESTROY HER CHILD, But the Divine care defends him, and the woman flees into the wilderness - "a place prepared," and that "they may nourish her." Let the whole for our instruction resolve itself into a teaching concerning:
1. The habitual antagonism of the great powers of evil to him who is the Church's Lord and Son. The whole book portrays the strife between the great antagonistic powers - light and darkness, sin and holiness, Christ and Satan - "the proper factors of history." This vision is, for us, one of warning and admonition. We learn the conditions on which we hold life. Our hearts are the battleground, and for dominion over them the two forces contend. Our duty is plain.
2. The Divine care for the Church. The "wilderness" is not a place of danger, but of safety. The city, with its corruption, is the deadly place. True, the wilderness affords not luxury; but luxury is danger. In the wilderness the Church is fed and nourished. God has prepared the conditions of safety for his Church during the times of the great strife which is afterwards to be detailed. Then let the lowly disciple have both faith and hope. The Lord will defend him in the day of battle, and will nourish him unto eternal life. - R. G.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: