We can compare this first sign with Genesis 37:9 to find that it is Israel. There is also similarity here with Song of Solomon 6:10. For Israel dwelling in heaven, we can look to Lamentation 2:1. Notice the progression from the end of Revelation 11 to chapter 12. The last verse saw the temple open in heaven, and now we’re seeing two signs in heaven. The vision is now progressing to a cosmic setting. No longer is it about God venting wrath upon Israel, nor the Antichrist rule in Jerusalem. We see here the heavenly realities and conflict.
This woman is pregnant, which we see in verse 5 that she gives birth to a man-child. I want to spend some time on this debating who the man-child is. From there we’ll examine verse 6 and what the Old Testament says about Israel being taken into the wilderness to a place prepared by God.
We do see in the Old Testament other times where a woman is in travail. That woman is called Zion. For example, in Isaiah 66:7-8, we read of Zion being in travail and when she gives birth it is the birth of Israel. Now, it is critical to understand this. When Isaiah was prophesying, he was not prophesying from exile. Isaiah was living in the land. Though he prophesied of an exile and return, we need to remember that his return that he expected was much larger than what we see in Nehemiah or Ezra – and certainly more significant than 1948.
The birth of the nation of Israel is more than just her establishment in the land. With that comes the marriage of Israel back unto her God (Isa 62:4-5) and the redemption of Israel (Isa 62:11-12). This is about her “beholding him whom they pierced”, and thus repenting and wailing before the Lord as seen in Zechariah 12:10-14.
Yet, this isn’t Zion that we’re seeing. This is Israel. While I think there is profound significance within the similarity between Isaiah 66:7-8 and Revelation 12:2 and 5, I think it is more critical to notice the parallel with Micah 5:3. In Micah 5, there is the birth of the Messiah, and then in verse three there is a mysterious break in the story. We see the Messiah, and then we see that Israel shall be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth, and then the rest of his brothers will return to join the Israelites. What is being said here?
In Micah 5:3, we have Jesus coming as Messiah, and then we have Israel being cast off for a time. This is what Paul is speaking of in Romans 11. For a season the natural branches are cast off until the fullness of Gentiles comes in, and then all Israel shall be saved. It is the exact same progression of Micah 5:3. This symbolism of the woman in travail is also found in Jeremiah 4:31, 13:21, 22:23, Isaiah 13:8, 21:3, and Hosea 13:13 under a different context. It appears that John wants us to think upon the redemption of Israel in this passage.
The woman to give birth is Israel, but from the Old Testament parallels we see the significance of this birth enacting redemption in a single day (Isa 66:7-8). Whenever that birth occurs salvation has come. The question is who is being born. Once that question is answered, the question becomes whether all of Israel is saved at that moment.
From the rest of the chapter we cannot conclude that this is the second coming of Jesus. Of course, when we read 12:5 we cannot conclude that anyway. We also cannot conclude that this is the very end when Israel is saved at the coming of Jesus. The reason for this is that we see quite explicitly a time after this birth. So, if it is the first coming of Jesus, why is there suddenly a massive break in the dialogue? If this man-child is someone (or thing) other than Jesus, then who could it possibly be?
If this man-child is Jesus, then we have the question of why the huge gap, and why is John breaking from his own pattern of having the timeline progress succinctly? There is no other place in Revelation where it could even possibly be considered that John is speaking outside of the Tribulation, nor is there a place where he has some sort of gap of hundreds – let alone thousands – of years. It is true that some events take a few years before completion, but that doesn’t say anything t why there is now a gap of 2000 years. What is more likely is that this man-child is not Jesus.
Who is it, then? What is important to note is the context of the whole chapter. We see the woman, we see the dragon, and then we see this man-child. Later in the chapter we see the dragon, we see war in heaven, there is the overcoming of the saints in verse 11, the woman is pursued by the dragon, and then the last mention is the woman’s “other offspring”. Most likely this man-child has something to do with one of these other characters mentioned. Obviously, the man-child is not the woman’s “other offspring” in verse 17. Similarly, we wouldn’t expect that Michael is this man-child. That leaves only one option: the overcomers.
Now, it has been suggested by Travis Bennett that the man-child is the 144,000 of chapter 7. This would imply that when the woman – Israel – gives birth to the 144,000 (signifying their coming unto Christ as a firstfruits of Israel’s national redemption), the dragon then pursues the woman. That would tell us that the sealing of the 144,000 is just before halfway through the Tribulation. We discussed in chapter 7 that this is most likely to take place some time toward the beginning of the tribulation. The first four trumpets must take place after the sealing of the 144,000, and so the question isn’t about when they are sealed, but when the trumpets are.
We saw quite convincingly that the trumpets must begin before the middle of the week. If the fifth trumpet lines up with the Antichrist marching on Jerusalem, then the first four trumpets must take place before that. The language of being “caught up to heaven” isn’t anything too difficult to wrestle. Paul mentions that we who are in Christ are currently seated with Christ in heavenly places – a promise given to they in Laodicea who overcome. So, what difficulty is it to imagine that the promise given to Thyatira couldn’t come to pass before the return of Christ? It is the overcomer, which in Revelation deals more specifically with they who have overcome the ultimate temptation of not loving our lives even unto the death, that obtains these promises, and not necessarily the person who is in Christ when He returns.
All of the promises given in Revelation 2-3 to the overcomers are millennial promises, but those promises are activated presently in spiritual form. Currently we are spiritually resurrected, as Paul declared in Romans 6, but we expect that we shall be physically resurrected, as Paul alludes to in Romans 8:21. So, if the ideology of being caught up and ruling with an iron scepter is expressed to people other than Jesus in other places of the New Testament (especially within Revelation), then we should have no quibble about this man-child being someone other than Jesus. The question, then, comes down to whether or not it is more likely that this man-child is the 144,000 firstfruits of Israel, or the overcomers mentioned in verse 11.
It has been debated as well whether the woman could mean the 144,000, and therefore this man-child is even more confusing. They use the contrast between the harlot on the beast being the leaders of Israel who devour the flock and the woman here who is preserved. But if you take that approach, then how do you have “her other offspring” being the church in verse 17? It absolutely has to be natural Israel.
I’m more prone to believe that this man-child is the overcoming body of believers. We can see the parallel between this “catching up” so that Satan cannot harm the man-child and the church in Philadelphia who was to be preserved from this final hour of trial. In that, God would then be using these saints as the prepared place in the wilderness for Israel to flee to in order to find solace. The rest of her offspring would then be they who still have yet to overcome – but also still have time to. The question at Jesus’ return will be the question of overcoming. They who overcome shall inherit the promises of chapters 2-3. They who don’t overcome shall stand before Jesus and be separated like sheep and goats – some to everlasting life and others to condemnation.
This would also make sense in the overall message of Revelation. They who prostitute themselves, though they are God’s people, shall receive chastisement and/or judgment. So, while Israel is being persecuted, they who are wavering in their conviction of Christ shall also be persecuted. The “catching up” is simply a way to explain Hebrews 12:22-24, Colossians 3:1, or Ephesians 2:6. The overcomers are a corporate reiteration of Jesus – He laid down His own life as a ransom for many, and so too these overcomers shall lay down their own lives for the sake of ultimate purposes and ransoming many. They shall save many lives, both physically and spiritually.
These who overcome are like the hands and feet of Jesus. They are the servants mentioned in Psalm 102:13-14 that “take pity on her stones”. They see Israel as God’s chosen people, and therefore have a heart for her like the heart of the Father. They understand her significance, and in that day will be able to comfort, O comfort, God’s people. This idea of a “man-child” comes from Isaiah 66:7-8, as we saw, but also Jeremiah 30:6. If you read Jeremiah 30, it will not take you long before you realize the context. The prophet sees the return from exile after 70 years, but then sees terror and not peace. Thus, the return from exile was not the fulfillment that Jeremiah was seeking. This verse in Jeremiah comes just before “the time of Jacob’s Trouble”, which is most likely being expressed in Revelation 12:6. We have our culprit. The man-child leads directly into the time of Jacob’s Trouble in both passages.