The Woman in Travail: A Deeper Look at Revelation 12

There’s much discussion that’s going around online and in many Christian groups about the coming constellation event, called “The Revelation 12 Sign,” that’s supposed to occur on September 23, 2017, in little more than a week.  There are various views being presented as to the meaning of this constellation event.  And, of course, there are a number of skeptics who are sounding their objections to the pro-theorists.  Although the focus of many is on the stars, they are missing the hidden prophetic meaning of Revelation 12, an important message for Israel and all believers in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

MISINTERPRETATIONS ABOUND

There have been many misinterpretations about Revelation 12 throughout the centuries, and that is certainly true today.  Some have interpreted the “woman” in Revelation 12 as the Church; some have seen it as Mary, the mother of Jesus; and, of course, you have “end-time teachers” who are now claiming it to be the constellation Virgo.  All of these interpretations are in error for the same reason, they ignore what God taught about the “”woman in travail” within the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh), specifically within the writing of the Prophets.

WHAT IS A “PRE-TRIB RAPTURE”?

Many believe in what is known as the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” [also called “Pre-Trib Rapture”] when Messiah will return in a secret catching away of believers, both those who have died and the living, before the tribulation begins.  The “tribulation” is a 7-year period when God’s judgments are poured out upon it.  However, in my research as you will see, almost all references point to a post-tribulation resurrection, with a couple of references suggesting a mid-tribulation rapture.

THE DANGER OF THIS POSITION

But it should be noted that the word “tribulation” does not mean “wrath” but “persecution.”  And there are millions of Christians in the world today who are already facing persecution, torture and death.  Consequently, I could not find any real biblical support for the idea of a “Pre-Tribulation rapture.”  But I do believe that this idea is a dangerous one, for it sets Christians up with the expectation that they will avoid persecution, leaving them unprepared for the possibility.  People don’t take the time to study and memorize Scripture, spend the needed time in prayer, or whatever else they need to do to prepare for this time.  Instead, they believe they will be “taken up” before all this happens, leaving them unprepared and in shock when this time of persecution comes upon them as many Christians oversees experienced.  Instead, the best mentality a Christian should have to be prepared for whatever happens.

A WHOLE BIBLE OR PARTIAL ONE?

Another point before getting into this study is that many Christians are not living their lives reading and studying all of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but only a partial one, based on the erroneous belief that the Old Testament (what Jews call the Hebrew Scriptures or Tanakh), or more often the Law (the commandments given to Moses) were “done away with,” “annulled,” or “set aside,” even though more than 80% of the New Testament actually comes from the Old Testament.  If we say that the Old Testament is “no longer valid for people today,” then more than 80% of the New Testament is likewise invalid.

For example, if before the Civil War, I created an entire economy on Confederate money, then when the south lost the war, then that entire economy that I created is no longer any good.  Why?  Because I based it on confederate money, and if the confederate money no longer has any value (which it doesn’t), then that economy no longer has any value either.  In the same way, if the Old Testament is no longer valid for anyone, then over 80% of the New Testament is likewise invalid, since over 80% of the New Testament is based upon the laws and teachings of the Old Testament.  Consequently, for anyone to teach that any part of the Bible is no longer valid is destroying the authority of all of Scripture.

Understanding that all of the Bible is relevant for one’s study is especially important when looking at biblical prophecy.  Too many people think that the only relevant material is in the New Testament.  which is not true.  There’s actually more material in regard to the “last days” and “the day of the Lord” in the Old Testament than there is in the New Testament.  Consequently, Christians greatly limit themselves and their understanding by merely spending time reading and studying the New Testament.  And this is true regarding almost all of the images that we find in the book of Revelation, including the “woman in travail.”

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” –  A COMMON IMAGE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

To begin, it should be noted that within the writings of the Old Testament, the image of “a woman in travail” is used 18 times.  It is used once by the psalmist, 6 times by Isaiah, 8 times by Jeremiah, once by Hosea, and 2 times by Micah.  Of course, the problem with these supposed “end-time teachers” is that they haven’t searched the Old Testament Scriptures, for if they had, they would not have been looking up to the constellations for answers; they would be pointing them to the Scriptures themselves.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” – AN IMAGE OF SUDDEN CALAMITY AND PAIN

Throughout the Old Testament, the phrase “a woman in travail” (KJV) or “a woman in labor” (newer translations) is often used to symbolize sudden calamity, destruction, pain, and anguish coming upon individuals or a nation.  It is in the psalms that we first see this used,

God is known in her [Jerusalem’s] palaces for a refuge.  For lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.  They saw it, and so they marveled; they were troubled, and hasted away.  Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  You break the ships of Tarshish [Tarsus] with an east wind.  (Psalm 48:3-7; Emphasis Mine)

What is it that causes these kings to marvel and respond in fear?  The answer to that question gets thrown off by the use of the word “it,” but in the Hebrew, the word “it” is the word “Him,” meaning God.  It is how God has protected and blessed the city of Jerusalem at this time that has the surrounding non-Jewish kings in awe.  And when God destroys the “ships of Tarshish” to protect Jerusalem from invasion, fear and pain takes ahold of these kings, “as of a woman in travail.”

In other words, the phrase “a woman in travail” is being used here in Scripture as a simile, a figure of speech, that’s used by the writer to describe two unlike things using “like” or “as,” and in this case, the two unlike things are the fear and pain felt by the kings, and “a woman in travail.”  Although newer translations use the phrase “a woman in labor,” they could have communicated the idea of “travail” better, if they would’ve used the phrase “a woman in hard labor” instead.  Particularly, since the Early Modern English idea of “travail” would’ve been understood to mean “hard and intense pain and anguish,” much like a woman experiences when she has entered into “hard labor.”

The Old Testament Hebrew prophets likewise used this same literary device in the same way within their writings.  For instance, in this same passage from the prophet Isaiah, he is describing his own feelings when hearing about the fall and destruction of Babylon:

Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold of me, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL: I was bowed down at the hearing of it, I was dismayed at the seeing of it.  My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.” (Isaiah 21:3-4, King James Version; Emphasis Mine)

Here is the same verse from the New American Standard Bible (a newer translation):

For this reason my loins are full of anguish; pains have seized me like the pains of A WOMAN IN LABOR.  I am so bewildered I cannot hear, so terrified I cannot see.  My mind reels, horror overwhelms me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling. (Isaiah 21:3-4; Emphasis Mine)

I included the newer translation to prove that “a woman in travail” and “a woman in labor” are indeed interchangeable.  And although younger people today may not recognize the image of “a woman in travail,” they do understand the image of “a woman in hard labor.”  Here is another example from the prophet Jeremiah.  In this passage, he is describing those in Damascus when it was being attacked:

Damascus waxed feeble, and turns to flee, and fear has seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  (Jeremiah 49:24; Emphasis Mine)

Finally, here is another example from the book of Jeremiah describing the king of Babylon when he heard of the attack that was happening to his city:

The king of Babylon has heard the report of them and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pains as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  (Jeremiah 50:43; Emphasis Mine)

As can be seen in these examples, the use of the phrase “a woman in travail” is used as a descriptive simile in each of the above examples.  When it is used in this way, it is not to be taken literally to refer to an actual woman in labor, but it’s used as a descriptive phrase to try and emphatically describe some event or personal trauma.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” – AN IMAGE ASSOCIATED WITH “THE DAY OF THE LORD”

But the image of “a woman in travail/hard labor” is also used by several prophets in conjunction with “the day of the LORD,” a day in which God pours out His judgment upon a nation.  For example, in describing God’s judgment against Babylon, by having this empire destroyed by the Medes in the future, the prophet Isaiah writes,

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.  There shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: they shall be in pain as A WOMAN THAT TRAVAILETH [A WOMAN THAT’S IN HARD LABOR]; they shall be amazed [shocked] at one another; their face shall be as flames.  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both in wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.  (Isaiah 13:6-9; Emphasis Mine)

Here we can clearly see the image of “a woman that travaileth” [or is in hard labor] within the context of “the day of the LORD.”  A day in which God pours out His anger and judgment upon a people and nation for their rejection of Him and His commandments.  For example, we see this also used by Jeremiah in his prophecy about Jerusalem’s coming destruction by the Babylonians (an event that happened in 586 B.C.E.):

For I have heard a voice as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL [Hard Labor], and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me!  for my soul is wearied because of murderers. (Jeremiah 4:31; Emphasis Mine).

Although the phrase “the day of the LORD” is not explicitly stated here, it is there by inference since the context deals with the coming judgment of Jerusalem by God, because the Israelites [the Jewish people] had turned away from Him and His commandments to worship false gods and to participate in those religions.

Here are some other references to the phrase “a woman in travail” being used by the prophet Jeremiah, in regard to God pouring out His judgment upon the people or nation:

We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish has taken hold of us, and pain, as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL. (Jeremiah 6:24; Emphasis Mine)

What will you say when He shall punish you?  For you have taught them to be captains, and as chief over you: shall not sorrows take you, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL  And if you say in your heart, why have these things come upon me?  For the greatness of your iniquity are your skirts discovered, and your heels made bare. (Jeremiah 13:21-22; Emphasis Mine)

In each of these passages by Jeremiah, the use of the phrase “a woman in travail [or hard labor]” is used as a simile, a literary device, to describe the sudden pain, anguish, calamity and turmoil that a person or nation feels when the day of God’s judgment (“the day of the LORD”) suddenly happens to them.  Hosea and Micah likewise used this phrase the same way in their prophecies as well:

The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is rid.  The sorrows of A TRAVAILING WOMAN shall come upon him.  (Hosea 13:12; Emphasis Mine)

Now why do you cry out loud?  Is there no king in you?  Is your counselor perished?  For pains have taken you as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  For now shall you go forth out of the city, and you shall dwell in the field, and you shall go even to Babylon; there shall you be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4:9-10; Emphasis Mine)

In fact, so horrible and dreadful is God’s judgment on people that He pronounces a “woe” (a judgment) upon anyone who wishes for that day to happen:

Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, says therefore; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the hasbandman [farmer] to mourning, and such as are skillful of lamentation to wailing.  And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through you, says the LORD.  WOE UNTO YOU THAT DESIRE THE DAY OF THE LORD!  to what end is it for you?  THE DAY OF THE LORD is darkness, and not light.  As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.  Shall not THE DAY OF THE LORD be darkness, and not light?  even very dark, and no brightness in it? (Amos 5:16-20)

Because God is the ultimate expression of holiness, He must judge sin.  And although “the day of the LORD” does come for people and nations, it is not something that we are to desire or to wish upon anyone.  As we have seen, the phrase of “a woman in travail” may be used to speak of a time of calamity, destruction, pain and anguish, but it can also be used to denote a time of God’s judgment upon a people.  The question is how do we understand its use in Revelation 12?

REVELATION 12:1-2

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 pain to be delivered.

Unlike many of today’s “end-time teachers,” who do not look to the Old Testament in order to understand this prophecy, they come up with all types of “off-the-wall” speculations about what this means.  I even read one Christian’s interpretation that the woman was Mary and the child Jesus.  However, as we have clearly seen, “a woman in travail [or hard labor]” is a repeated image that’s used as a simile to describe some sudden calamity, destruction, or pain and anguish falling upon a people or nation.  So in light of this vision, the two questions we need to ask is:

  • What people or nation is being represented here?
  •  Is this calamity and destruction the result of God’s judgment or does it have another source?

If we examine verse 1, we are given in the vision the needed details we need to identify the nation as Israel.  John is not viewing a constellation, but he is alluding again to the Old Testament, as he does so often, specifically, in this case, to the second dream of Joseph.

ABOUT JOSEPH AND HIS DREAM

Because of Joseph’s obedience and loyalty to his father, Jacob gave him “a coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3), and this coat indicated to the rest of the family that Jacob had chosen Joseph, over his older brothers, to lead the family after Jacob’s death.  This, of course, caused a lot of animosity between Joseph and his brothers.  But it is only after Joseph received this coat, this image of leadership, that Joseph begins to have these strange dreams regarding his future.  The dream dealing with the sun, moon, and stars was the second dream that Joseph shared with his father and brothers.

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”  And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed?  Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow down ourselves to you to the earth?”  (Genesis 37:9-10)

Now some may say, “But Joseph’s dream only contained 11 stars, not 12.”  This is true, but the 12th star was Joseph himself, and in many places of the Old Testament, the people and nation of Israel are portrayed as a virgin woman, such as in the following passages:

The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up. (Amos 5:2)

Again, I will build thee, and you shall be built, O virgin of Israel: you shall be adorned with your tabrets, and shall go forth in the dances of them that make merry.  (Jeremiah 31:4)

Consequently here, John is not seeing a vision of the constellation Virgo, as being taught by many “end-time teachers,” but his vision concerns a coming calamity, destruction, pain and anguish to the people and nation of Israel.

HIDDEN MESSAGE #1: THERE IS COMING A DAY OF CALAMITY AND ANGUISH COMING TO THE PEOPLE AND NATION OF ISRAEL.

There is coming to the people and nation of Israel in these final days, a time of great calamity, anguish, pain, and horror.  Some may believe that the Holocaust that Jews in Europe experienced under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime was the fulfillment of this, and I wish with all that’s in me that this was true, but it is not.  There is another Holocaust coming, but this time it will not be confined to Europe, but it will be global in scope.  For example, the prophet Isaiah writes,

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again THE SECOND TIME to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left,…and He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah FROM THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH. (Isaiah 11:11a, 12; Emphasis Mine)

The signs of this are all around the world.  The growing anti-Semiticism in Europe with the Neo-Natzi Movment, the Middle East among the radical Muslims, and signs of it have been appearing in the United States as well.  This unfortunately will continue to increase, until another Holocaust occurs.  I am sure many are asking, “Why?  Why would this happen again to the Jewish people, particularly since their hearts cry regarding the last Holocaust is “NEVER AGAIN!”?

The unfortunate reality is that there is a dark entity that hates anything that represents God and the Scriptures.  And the people of Israel (the Jewish people) were chosen by God to represent Him and His Torah, and it is for that reason that this dark entity hates everything there is about the Jew.  It is he that has been flaming the fires of hatred against the Jewish people, and he will not rest until every Jew has been destroyed.  And it is this dark entity that John identifies in the next two verses of Revelation 12.

REVELATION 12:3.

And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.

THE GREAT RED DRAGON

Prior to the woman [Israel] giving “birth,” another sign appears in heaven.  This one, though, is of “a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.”  Now there are some “end-time teachers” who are trying to say that the constellation Draco is the “great red dragon” here.  However, John, just 6 verses later, identifies the “dragon” as “Satan:”

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world:… (Revelation 12:9a)

Obviously, then, the “great red dragon” that John sees in verse 3 cannot be the constellation Draco.

REVELATION 12:4.

And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth.  And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

This is where the constellation argument falls apart.  How would Draco, a constellation, throw a third of the stars to the earth?  Obviously, it couldn’t.  Therefore, this “great red dragon” could not be possibly the constellation Draco, but as John states, it is a picture of Satan.  His tail sweeping down the “third of the stars” has been traditionally interpreted and taught by most Christians as referring to the third of angels (i.e., “the stars of heaven”) that fell when they joined Satan in an open rebellion against God, and as a result, they were cast out of heaven unto the earth.  These “fallen angels” are what later became known as “demons.” But as we see in this part of the vision, the dragon (Satan) is standing before the woman (Israel), who is “about to give birth,” so that he might “devour her child.”

WHO IS “THE MALE CHILD”?

So who is this “child” that the people and nation of Israel is going to give birth to, that Satan, the “great red dragon,” wants “to devour” and destroy?  An indication of the identity of “the male child” is seen in verse 5.

REVELATION 12:5.

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

Because the “male child” here is described as being a “male,” who is “to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” and someone who “was caught up to God and to His throne,” the automatic assumption of most Christians is that the “male child” here refers to Jesus Christ.  And on the surface, this seems logical.  However, when we compare Revelation 12 with Isaiah 26, we see some very interesting commonalities between the two passages.

ISAIAH 26 AND REVELATION 12

When we compare these two prophetic passages, the common elements that we see are a travailing woman, the mention of a child, and a resurrection.

Isaiah 26:17-21 Revelation 12:1-2, 5-6
  And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.
A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL

Like a woman with child, that draws near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and cries out of her pains; so have we been in Your sight, O LORD.

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
THE MENTION OF A CHILD

We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:
THE MENTION OF A RESURRECTION

Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

And her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.

As we can see, there are definite parallels between these two passages.  In both passages, the woman (Israel) is in great travail, as if “we have been with child,” but in the Isaiah 26 passage, Israel was not able to bring forth any deliverance on their own, but in the Revelation 12 passage, we see Israel bringing forth “the male child.”  But right after their discussion of not being successful in bringing forth deliverance to the world, there is a description of the resurrection of the dead, which interestingly corresponds with the birth of the “male child” being “caught up unto God, and to His throne.”

This provokes some really interesting questions, particularly when we consider the following two verses, Isaiah 26:20-21, with Revelation 12:6.

Come, My people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty (1260) days.
For, behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

In both Isaiah 26:20 and Revelation 12:6, there is a hiding away of God’s people for a time, before “the LORD comes out to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (Isaiah 26:21).  I believe it would be rather naïve of anyone to say that these similarities are “merely coincidence.”  Instead, John, who grew up and lived his life as an Orthodox Jew (an Orthodox Jew who had found his Messiah), would have drawn heavily upon the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., “the Old Testament”).  And we indeed see an abundance of evidence of this in his gospel, his first epistle, and especially in the book of Revelation.  And so it is not surprising for God to reveal the future to John using the same or similar images, and their associated meanings, as we see within the writings of the Old Testament Prophets.

REVELATION 11 AND REVELATION 12

Consequently, what we see is that the time of Israel’s coming suffering precedes the resurrection of the dead.  Therefore, is this coming constellation event a sign regarding the rapture of the church?  No, it is not.  What we do see in the birth of the “male child” is that it occurs just after the mid=point of the 7-year period.

Ministry and death of the Two Witnesses (1260 days; or 3.45 years).   These two witnesses minister for the first half of the Tribulation. (Revelation 11)
The sounding of the 7th Trumpet (“the last trump”).  After the sounding of the 7th trumpet, we find the 24 elders in heaven, praising God, and then saying, “And the nations were angry, and Your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Your name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:17-18).
The Birth of the “Male Child” (Revelation 12:5).  After this is exclaimed by the 24 elders, there is the “woman in travail” and the “birth of the male child.”
The Woman (Israel) Hidden for 1260 days (or 3.45 years),  It is after the “male child’s birth” that the woman is pursued by Satan and she is hidden for 1260 days (or 3.45 years).

I’ve discovered that although John wrote down the visions in the order he received them, they are not in the order in which they will occur.  For example, as we can see from these two chapters, the ministry length of the two witnesses will be about 3.5 years and the time length that the woman is hidden is about 3.5 years.  If you add them together , you get approximately 7 years, yet chapter 11 happens midway into the book.  Also, the opening of the first seal, and the coming of the first rider on a white horse (Revelation 6:1-2) corresponds to the rise of the Beast and his false prophet in Revelation 13.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” –  “A TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE”

So as we can see in our discussion so far, the “woman in travail” does not refer to the Church, nor does it refer to Mary, but it refers to the people and the nation of Israel suddenly and unexpectedly experiencing a time of great calamity, suffering, pain, and anguish.  This perfectly describes a period known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”

And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and the concerning Judah.  For thus says the LORD, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.  Ask now, and see whether a man does travail with child?  Wherefore  do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL, and all faces are turned pale?  Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even THE TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE; but He saved them from it.  (Jeremiah 30:4-7; Emphasis Mine)

Here we see in Jeremiah’s prophecy, the image of “a woman in travail” used to describe “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the last half of this 7 year period.  I believe that the hiding of the woman for 1260 days is God’s way of telling the Jewish people that during this coming time, He will keep His promise that He made to them through the prophet Jeremiah.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” & “THE MAN CHILD” IN ISAIAH 66

A final point I want to discuss is that not only is “the woman in travail” discussed within the ancient Hebrew prophets, but in the book of Isaiah, so is her male child.  For example, consider Isaiah 66:5-9,

Hear the word of the LORD, you that tremble at His word; your brothers that hated you, that cast you out for My name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.  A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that renders recompense to His enemies.  Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a MAN CHILD.  Who has heard of such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?  For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.  Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?  says the LORD:  shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? says your God. (Isaiah 66:5-9)

So as we can see hear, both Isaiah 66 and Revelation 12 refer to a woman in travail and to the birth of a “man child.”

And what is the context of Isaiah 66 and the birth of the “man child”?  God’s final judgment upon the nations of the world; that is, “the day of the LORD.”  The exact same theme and context as John’s visions in the book of Revelation, including the vision of “the woman in travail.”

THE MAN CHILD – ONE BIRTH OR TWO?

However, although the two passages deal with the same theme, the same time period, and use the same terms, there is a difference between the “man child” of Isaiah 66 and the “male child” of Revelation 12:  the timing of the man child’s birth.  In Isaiah 66, the “man child” is born BEFORE “she travailed,” BEFORE “her pain came” (Isaiah 66:7).  However, the “male child” of Revelation 12 is born DURING her time of pain and travail (Revelation 12:2, 5).  This conflict in timing seems to suggest the possibility of two separate births: one before the “travail” and one during the “travail.”

WHAT WE HAVE SO FAR

So in summary, Isaiah 26 indicates that the time that the “woman” is “in travail” occurs right before the resurrection, God’s people being hidden for “a little moment,” and the LORD coming “out of His place” to “punish” the nations of the world for “their iniquity.”  Isaiah 66 seems to indicate the possibility of two “births” from the nation and people of Israel: the first being the “man child” before “the time of travail,” and then of “her children” during the time of the travail.  All three references – Isaiah 26, Isaiah 66, and Revelation 12 – all indicate Israel being in a time of “travail” (suffering, calamity and pain) when “a child” is born.  Only the Isaiah 66 text indicates a miraculous birth of a “man child” that will occur BEFORE the time of “travail.”

THE MAN CHILD – SAME NATION, TWO DIFFERENT BIRTHS

So although Isaiah 66 indicates two births, one of the “man child” BEFORE the indignation, God’s judgment being poured out on the nations of the world, and the birth of “her children,” which occurs during her travail (or hard labor), I believe that the “man child” of Isaiah 66 and the “male child” of Revelation 12 represents parts of the same people or nation.

First of all, the inference of Isaiah 66 is that just as “the woman in travail” represents a nation, so does the “man child” (or “male child”) represent “a nation.”  For example,

Who has heard such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day?  or shall A NATION BE BORN at once?  For as Zion travailed, she brought forth HER CHILDREN. (Isaiah 66:8)

This “man child” of Isaiah 66 is “a nation” who will be born at one time from the people and nation of Israel [“Zion”], BEFORE the nation of Israel undergoes a time of extreme calamity, anguish, destruction and pain.  This “nation” (or “man child”) will be born in “the last days” when God is “judging the nations.”

But not only will this “man child” nation be born in the last days BEFORE the days of Israel’s travail, but its birth will shock and surprise many people.  It will leave them reeling with wonder and questions.  Some might think that Jesus here is the “man child” referred here, but Israel was in travail from the persecution and abuse of Rome.  It did not happen BEFORE the travail.

Another reason why this “man child” could not be Jesus is because just 8 verses later in verse 15, we read,

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by His sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. (Isaiah 66:15-16)

Obviously Jesus cannot be the “man child” of verse 7 or part of “the children” of verse 8, if He is the one coming with fire and with His chariots to bring God’s judgment upon the nations.  Obviously, then, He cannot be the “male child” of Revelation 12 for the same reason.  He cannot be born and bringing judgment at the same time.  This is also confirmed by the prophecy of Micah 5:

But you,  Beth-lehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel. (Micah 5:2)

Anyone having read the New Testament recognizes that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  However, what should interest us in this study is the two verses that follows this prophecy:

Therefore will He give them up, UNTIL THE TIME that SHE WHO TRAVAILS HAS BROUGHT FORTH; then the remnant of His brothers shall return unto the children of Israel.  And He shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; and they shall abide: for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth.  (Micah 5:3-4; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that it will be when “she who travails brings forth” when Messiah will return to His people.  Others might believe that Israel becoming a nation on May 14, 1948, would be the fulfillment of this prophecy concerning the “man child” in Isaiah 66, but again the time sequence is wrong.  Israel became a nation as a result of Israel’s travail in Europe, not BEFORE it happened.

THE MAN CHILD – A NATION WHO WILL RULE WITH A ROD OF IRON?

Another clue to the identity of the “man/male child” is found in Revelation 12, the “male child” will “rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne” (Revelation 12:5).  It is this description that prompts most Christians to identify the “male child” as Jesus.  Because as the Messiah, He “will rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9) and who else but Him has been “caught up to God and to His throne”?

THE MAN CHILD – THE OVERCOMING BELIEVERS

in Revelation 2, Jesus promises something to two churches out of the seven that’s relevant to end-time prophecy.  The first church was the church of Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29),

And he that overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, to him will I give power [or authority] over the nations: and he shall rule [or shepherd] them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father. (Revelation 2:26-27)

I have heard ministers quote this verse and say that it applies to all Christians; however, that ignores the context of the statement.  These seven churches, in Revelation 2-3 represent the types of churches that will exist in each period of history until Christ’s return.  Even though each type of church will exist in each period of time, there will be one type of church that will dominate in a particular period.  For example, I believe in the United States right now, the dominate church that we see is the “Laodicean Church”  (Revelation 3:14-22).

Jesus did not give this promise to all the 7 churches,  but only to those who “overcome” and “keep [His] works unto the end.”  The word “keep” here has a much broader meaning than what we see in the English.  It means “to keep, to watch, to maintain, and to observe or practice.”  Consequently, those who will be given the authority over the nations to “rule them with a rod of iron” are those who continue keeping, maintaining, and observing and practicing “His works unto the end.”  Merely calling oneself a “Christian” or even calling Jesus “Lord” does not automatically entitle one to this promise.  For Jesus taught the people who followed Him [and continue to follow Him]:

Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out devils? and in Your name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity (or lawlessness). (Matthew 7:  21-23)

As He taught [and continues to teach through the Scriptures], merely calling Jesus “Lord,” even if it is done emphatically, is not enough to get one into heaven.  In Luke’s gospel, Jesus likewise asks the question, “And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and don’t do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)  Biblical “faith” or “believing” includes obedience, not merely accepting something to be true.  Consequently, it is my belief, based on the textual evidence of Scripture, that only those believers in Jesus (Yeshua) who are faithfully serving Him, keeping all the commandments of God, including those in the Old Testament and who continue to keep, observe and practice “His works” will comprise “the man child” of Isaiah 66.   For as we noted in this passage, the prophesied “man child” is “a nation” of people, not one individual.

When this happens it will wake up those who are left, and if they remain faithful to Jesus during this time, they will make up the “male child” of Revelation 12.

AN ANCIENT EXTRA-BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN SOURCE

The Didache, also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” dated from about 75- 150 C.E., is one of the oldest Christian writings, if not the oldest.  Now I am not trying to suggest that it is divinely inspired, but it does give us a non-biblical view of how those who lived during this time understood the end-time event of Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead:

For in the last days the false prophets and corruptors will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.  For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another.  And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.  Then all mankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish, but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself.  And then there shall appear the signs of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead – but not of all, rather, as it has been said, “The Lord will come, and all his saints with him.”  Then the world “will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (Lightfoot and Harmer, Trans., The Apostolic Fathers 2nd ed.,p. 158)

Obviously, this late 1st century to mid-2nd century view of the believers of that time believed that Christ’s return and the “resurrection of the dead” would occur at the end of the tribulation period, rather than “before the tribulation” (Pre-Tribulation or “Pre-Trib”), as is commonly taught by many churches and ministers today.  I have heard many ministers and evangelists claim that the 1st century church believed in a “Pre-Tribulation rapture;” however, the teaching of the Didache calls this teaching into question.

CONCLUSION

I have much more research on this topic, which I am presently putting together in a book form.  I think this study that I have presented here clearly demonstrates that there’s a lot more material and depth to this topic than what is normally presented or discussed in most churches or Christian groups.  But by the same token, it also opens the doors to many more questions about this as well.

I hope you enjoy what I have put together and presented here, and I pray that it will prompt you to do your own study of the Scriptures, regarding this and other topics as well.

 

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