Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Church is Born

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 
Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 
Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 12:1-6

   This segment of The Apocalypse is the first recorded section after the Rapture of the Church in 11:19, but, of course, chronologically, this section must immediately precede, the Church age, which is recorded in 2:1-11:19.

   It is imperative that we understand that the word “heaven” has a variety of meanings in the Bible.   However, in no case is it some far off, wondrous, unimaginable place in the misty recesses of our fantasy.  The heaven (spaceship) which John later enters, is a real, actual, physical place that our human senses could appreciate if it were in our reach.  John saw it, heard it, felt it, entered it.

It is just as real as the heaven where the sun, moon, and stars appear to be. It was in the sky where John saw the vision.  In fact, The Contemporary English Version uses these words, Something important appeared in the sky.  

A woman, who is standing on the moon, appears, wearing the sun and a garland with 12 stars.  This woman represents the righteous people of Israel and their body of beliefs; they are the chosen people of Jehovah.  Before the day of Pentecost, when the Church was born, she was the one nation, in the entire world, that worshiped Jehovah; therefore, symbolically, she is said to be wearing the sun.  

  The garland of twelve stars represents the 12 patriarchs of Israel. These twelve men shine brightly, at times, in the history of the Jewish people.   Joseph, in his dream, saw his father (Jacob/Israel) as the sun and his mother (Rachel) as the moon. Gen. 37:9-10.

Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.  The picture painted in 12:2  is that of a very difficult delivery.  That is how it has been with the Christian church.  Satan will not easily let go of even one soul so that it can be born again.  The rebirth is always a difficult delivery because he hates to lose any that are his.  If he struggles so hard to keep even one soul from entering God's kingdom, the mental anguish, for him, must have been horrendous when the Christian Church was born.  If he did not know that both in life and death, Christ had been victorious over him, the birth of the Church, should have been enough to convince him.

John says I saw another wonder in the sky; the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.  
In 12:5 we read that the woman brought forth a man-child.  Some argue that the woman is specifically the virgin mother and the man-child is Christ who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron.  In that interpretation, it is easy to see that Satan, in the form of Herod, was ready to kill the Christ child soon after His birth.  However, he failed because the woman, Mary, with her child and Joseph fled into the wilderness (Egypt) and stayed there three and a half years, according to 12:6.  If one accepts this theory, then the statement, the child was caught up to God and his throne for safety would need to relate to the ascension of Christ after His resurrection.

There is no Scriptural record that the virgin mother suffered persecution after the death of her Son, or that she experienced a safe, miraculous assumption into heaven.  There is another theory which I prefer.

   The woman, in the person of Mary, represents Israel.  The baby, in the person of Christ, represents The Church.  The dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. There are at least a few examples of this in the New Testament.

  1. A lady, about to give birth, cannot even find a heated, sanitary room in a hotel and so the baby is born in a sheep pen where it is cold and dirty.  Not only that, but Mary was all alone with no one, except a carpenter, to encourage her and see to her needs.
  2. The dragon used Herod to kill all the baby boys, under two years old, to make sure that The Church would never be born.
  3. Before Christ started his ministry He went to the wilderness to meditate and seek Jehovah's direction for His life.  While He was there the dragon sought Him out and tempted the Messiah.  All he needed was for the anointed one to yield to one temptation.  The dragon failed.
Mr. Smith records that the standard of Rome in John’s time was a red Dragon.  Perhaps John was painting two pictures at once by denouncing the Roman political system while at the same time clarifying the ambitions of Satan.