Who are the Woman and Her Children?
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. 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. 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. 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. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (Revelation 12:1-6).
And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished or a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:13-17).
This is perhaps the most mysterious and yet foundational vision in the Bible concerning God’s plan for the outworking of the redemption of His creation at the end of the age. Identifying the woman and her children is crucial to understanding the makeup of the company of the redeemed. The whole of prophetic Scripture must be considered in order to arrive at an identification of these key players. She is revealed in heaven as a great sign along with her children, the "male child" and the "rest of her offspring." Who or what are they a sign of, and can these heavenly signs be matched with flesh and blood counterparts on earth?
It is easy to see that this heavenly vision has application to the entire history of the redeemed line. Since the time of Eve, there has always been a woman struggling to give birth, and the devil has always sought to kill her offspring. The application to Moses and Jesus, and the situation with Esther and Haman, come to mind. Yet we are challenged and constrained here with identifying a particular segment of the overall vision which applies specifically to the last three and one-half years of the age. In other words, who are the people groups on earth during the last three and one-half years of the age who represent the subjects of this heavenly vision?
Who are the "Rest of Her Offspring"?
The first and easiest match that can be made is the ready match between the "rest of her offspring" that the dragon goes off to make war against, with the saints of Daniel and Revelation.
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17).
And it was given to him [the antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him (Revelation 13:7).
We have already concluded that these saints represent the final generation Church on earth at the end of the age. Revelation Chapters 13 and 14 describe that war between Satan and the saints. Throughout, the saints are encouraged to keep their perseverance and faith (Revelation 13:10), and to keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12). Authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation is given to the antichrist, but a great multitude that no one could count, from every tribe and people and tongue and nation, emerges victoriously from that war.
Who is the Male Child?
The description of the male child so much resembles Jesus that it is difficult to tell if the vision is referring to Jesus of two thousand years ago or to the overcoming Church, for the overcoming Church will also rule the nations with a rod of iron.
Scholars have different opinions. Most conclude the ready analogy to Jesus, yet Scripture indicates a birth at the three and one-half year point before the end of the age that signifies something other than the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago. Jesus likened the events just preceding the end of the age to increasing birth pains. Someone is going to be birthed at the end of the age, but who is it?
Paul said that the whole creation is groaning as in the pains of childbirth for the revealing of the sons of God. The birth of the male child, the only birth clearly identified in the book of Revelation, suggests that this male child might have something to do with those sons of God for which the whole creation is waiting.
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. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (Revelation 12:5-6).
I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware" (Psalm 2:7-9).
And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father . . . (Revelation 2:26-27).
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth . . . He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:10, 12-13).
Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape [be accounted worthy to escape, KJV] all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:34-36).
And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads . . . These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless (Revelation 14:1, 4-5).
The male child is best represented as a select group of Jewish and Gentile Church overcomers who have ripened early into the likeness of Jesus and are taken to heaven at the mid-point of the final seven years of the age. This is not the whole Church, but only a first-fruits portion representing the eventual greater harvest. These are blameless saints who have no need of further testing and purification by the fires of tribulation. The timing and description of the male child snatched up to heaven at the beginning of the final three and one-half years of the age matches the timing of the appearance and the description of the 144,000 before God’s throne of Revelation 14:1.
If the number 144,000 is literal, and if there are nominally two billion Christians on earth at the end of the age, the ratio selected would only be approximately one in twenty thousand, assuming that the dead in Christ are not involved. Even as the ratio of first fruits to the final harvest of grain is but a few select kernels relative to a vast field of grain, so will the first fruits of the Church be these few individuals who have given all to follow Jesus wherever He goes. The bulk of the Church, the rest of her offspring, will need to undergo purification in the great tribulation to the extent necessary to conform them to the likeness of Jesus. I believe that is why Jesus said, without mentioning option, "Those who endure to the end will be saved." It is not because God loves them any less than the first fruits. Their call, however, is to endure the necessary crucible of purification and lay down their lives, if called, in order to overcome Satan. It would seem to be the male child in heaven, the first-fruits harvest of the Church, who speaks forth in Revelation 12:10-11 and identifies those left on earth as "our brethren."
And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death" (Revelation 12:10-11).
The accuser of the brethren found nothing (no sin) in the first fruits even as he found nothing (no sin) in Jesus, for no lie was found in their mouths and they are blameless. They have been presented to Christ as pure virgins. They have achieved bride status. Those who remain behind are the betrothed who will achieve bride status through purification. Hence, it is not until Revelation 19 that the bride has made herself ready. The tense of the Greek verb used for overcame signifies an action not yet completed, but already considered as if completed. The snatching up of the male child at the mid-point of the final seven years would seem to qualify as a "pre-great tribulation" rapture, if these are indeed living saints picked from among the living. For those who would seek to be counted in this group, the qualification is maturity evidenced by holiness.
. . . that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).
Who is the Woman?
The book of Revelation is a book of contrasts. Good contrasts evil. The mark of the beast contrasts the mark of God. True prophets contrast false prophets. There is a vision of a woman in Revelation 17 who stands for a great city of evil. Perhaps the identity of the evil woman can provide a clue, by contrast, to the identity of the righteous woman.
If Babylon is the great city represented by the evil woman, the contrasting city represented by the righteous woman would be the holy city of Jerusalem. In Galatians 4:26, we read that the Jerusalem above is indeed portrayed as the mother of the Church. The Lord started me out in understanding who the woman is by speaking a word early one morning in 1997: "Jerusalem above is our mother." He was pointing out existing Scripture.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, "REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND." And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise (Galatians 4:22-28).
Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain . . . (Isaiah 51:1-2).
That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is a word of promise; "AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON" (Romans 9:8-9).
Sarah stands for the free woman, the Jerusalem above, and her children are the children of God for which all creation awaits. Although Jerusalem above is described as barren and desolate, she is an allegorical representation of the flesh-and-blood, free-and-promised line of Sarah on earth who give birth to her children in pain out of a physical womb. Jerusalem above represents our spiritual mother while Sarah represents our physical mother. It is God Who transforms the natural into the spiritual, even as He will transform our physical bodies into heavenly bodies.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children . . ." (Genesis 3:15-16).
But women ["she", margin notes] will be saved ["restored", margin notes] through childbearing -- if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (1 Timothy 2:15 NIV).
The Genesis prophecy is clearly in view in the vision of the heavenly woman of Revelation 12. She is a picture of the physical line of Sarah rather than the spiritual Jerusalem above who neither labors nor gives birth. Children are represented in the Bible by a crown, and the crown of twelve stars on her head must represent the twelve sons of Israel and perhaps the twelve foundational apostles of the Church as well. She is still under the Genesis curse and has not yet broken free and been restored. The picture is of a woman struggling in the pains of childbirth to give birth to a portion of the Church at the end of the age, and in the process will be saved and restored. Who, through the process of giving birth, will be restored? Is there a specific people group at the end of the age who flees into the wilderness to be protected from Satan for three and one-half years, and is restored through the process of giving birth to a portion of the Church? Who is she, sealed for redemption, yet identified separately from the Church?
God will Never Forget Israel, but have Her Gentile Children?
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the LORD of hosts is His name: "If this fixed order departs from before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done," declares the LORD (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
We, in understatement to the point of humor, haven’t yet measured the heavens above or searched out the depths of the earth, and consequently God has not cast off Israel. Scripture portrays Israel as the wife of God, purposed to bring forth the children of God, even though she is adulterous and unfaithful. She is initially rejected, but will later be accepted and restored.
Behold, the tempest of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a sweeping tempest; it will burst on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back, until He has performed, and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this. "At that time," declares the LORD, "I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people." Thus says the LORD, "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness --- Israel, when it went to find its rest" (Jeremiah 30:23-31:2).
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. And it will come about in that day," declares the LORD, "That you will call Me Ishi [i.e., my husband] and will no longer call Me Baali [i.e., my master]" (Hosea 2:14-16).
Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel . . . Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days" (Hosea 3:1, 5).
"For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected," says your God. "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:6-8).
. . . and I shall bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I shall enter into judgment with you face to face . . . And I shall make you pass under the rod, and I shall bring you into the bond of the covenant (Ezekiel 20:35, 37).
"Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob," declares the LORD. "For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name," declares the LORD who does this (Amos 9:8-12).
I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. Come, let us return to the LORD, for He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him (Hosea 5:15-6:2).
Now why do you cry out loudly? Is there no king among you, or has your counselor perished, that agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth? Writhe and labor to give birth, Daughter of Zion, like a woman in childbirth . . . Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel (Micah 4:9-10, 5:3).
Although the book of Revelation is written specifically to the Church, the Old Testament is pregnant with prophetic promises to literal Israel which have yet to be fulfilled. God has said that He will never forget His chosen people Israel, yet a largely Gentile Church often does. Paul emphatically lays out the primacy of the Jewishness of the root from which the Gentile branches receive their life-giving sap in Romans Chapter 11. It is because the natural branches have been broken off that the Gentile branches can be grafted in and receive the life that a Jewish Jesus came to offer.
Gentiles are not to be arrogant toward Israel because it is to Israel that Gentiles owe the privilege of coming into attachment to the olive tree from the holy root.
And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:16-18).
For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways (Romans 11:24-33)!
Our end-times Church doctrine is often influenced by replacement theology, wherein the Church is assumed to replace in spiritual context that which the Bible says is literally applicable to the nation of Israel. References to Zion are assumed to no longer apply to physical Israel, but rather to the Church. Assuredly many of the promises referring to Zion are applicable to the Church, but it is incorrect to assume that the promises no longer apply to Israel because the Church has replaced Israel in the scheme of things. We must remember that there is a heavenly Mt. Zion which represents the one-new-man company of redeemed Jew and Gentile, and there is an earthly Mt. Zion which represents the literal nation of Israel. The earthly Mt. Zion will retain significance throughout the entire one-thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. God has not given up on Israel, and the Bible indicates that the fulfillment of God’s restorative promises to Israel have been merely put on hold until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.
As a consequence of this confusion, Church doctrine concerning the end-times can have the key players mixed up. Israel is often confused for the Church, and vice versa. Israel is placed in view in the warnings of Matthew 24 (which are clearly addressed to Jesus’ disciples), and the Church is placed in view in the image of the heavenly woman in Revelation Chapter 12, when it is clearly her offspring who are described as the Church. Israel is a key player in the book of Revelation, but she is behind the scenes struggling in birth pains.
I believe the woman in view in this heavenly vision stands for those of literal, physical Israel who have been supernaturally blinded for the sake of the Gentiles. This is a group distinct from Messianic Jews. Messianic Jews would be included as part of the Church, either the male child or the offspring of the woman. Paul makes a clear distinction in Romans Chapter 11 between the saved remnant of Israel and those who are hardened and stumble. It is this special group who are hardened and stumble, for the sake of the Gentiles, who are restored at the end of the age when their blindness is removed. When the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, their spiritual vision will be restored by God, and they will be grafted back into the holy olive tree. All of Romans Chapter 11 deals with this point. There must be a special group of Israel, sheltered and protected through the time of Jacob’s trouble, so that Scripture can be fulfilled concerning the restoration of that nation which only comes at the very end of the age. And these are clearly distinct from that remnant spoken of at the beginning of Romans Chapter 11. These are a part of "all Israel" who will be saved.
Is any portion of the Church included in the woman? After all, Scripture says that all creation is groaning in birth pains. Certainly this heavenly vision is a vision that can apply to all of creation since the fall. Regardless of how widely symbolic the woman is, and how clearly the symbolism of the male child describes Jesus, we are nevertheless constrained to narrow the vision down so that it applies specifically to a group or groups of flesh and blood people alive on the earth during the last three and one-half years of the age. The definition of the Church as those who keep the commandments of God and have faith in Jesus Christ would reserve any living Jew or Gentile who falls into this category as not the woman, but either the male child or the rest of her offspring. The woman would seem to be reserved to those who are specifically not yet Christians, but yet are of the line of Sarah sealed for eventual redemption. I believe the heavenly woman, in the context of the numerous references to Israel struggling in birth pains to give birth to the children of God, is best interpreted as a portrayal of this blinded --- but nevertheless sealed for redemption --- portion of natural Israel. In a sense, she is the Church --- she is just not the Church yet. She is held back from being regenerated until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Mixing these key players can result in loss of vision for the Church’s role in the end-times scenario. The woman is specifically protected from Satan and physically preserved until the end of the age, whereas the "rest of her offspring" are warred against by Satan. Their spiritual calling, as we have seen, is to defeat Satan in part by allowing themselves to be physically overcome. This is a crucial distinction which involves the very heart of God’s plan for His Church and for Israel.
It is the destiny of this chosen remnant of Israel to be supernaturally protected until the end of the age at which time they will be converted and grafted back in. It is the destiny of the Church to lay down her life as redemptive seed for that conversion and bring this remnant of Israel to jealousy by this witness of these who must have been with Jesus in order to demonstrate this greatest of love for their brethren. Considering the strained history of Jewish-Christian relations for the last two millennia, possibly nothing less than a demonstration of this greatest love possible between brethren will heal that rift. When a largely Gentile Church lives and loves and dies like Jesus did for her Jewish brethren, her Jewish brethren will sit up and take notice.
We were Pregnant, We writhed in Labor, We gave Birth
As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, she writhes and cries out in her labor pains, thus were we before Thee, O LORD. We were pregnant, we writhed in labor, we gave birth, as it were, only to wind. We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth nor were inhabitants of the world born (Isaiah 26:17-18).
This is not the Church speaking. These are the words of Zion agonizing in the contractions of childbirth until the purposes of God are brought forth. "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob" is spoken by Paul in Romans 11 in direct contrast to the Gentile Church he is addressing. This is the woman of Revelation 12 in the pains of the birthing process --- Zion on earth laboring in pain to give birth to her children.
The ultimate purposes for which God created the nation of Israel will not be thwarted. His covenants with that nation have not been revoked and will never be revoked. It is through Israel that God will bless all nations.
Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her" (Genesis 17:15-16).
And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?" (Genesis 18:17-18).
. . . for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be (Romans 11:12)!
Deliverance for the earth and giving birth to inhabitants of the world was their original calling and purpose. Although in the natural and in their own eyes they failed, the purposes of God are not thwarted by mere human shortcoming.
The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears, "The place is too cramped for me; make room for me that I may live here." Then you will say in your heart, "Who has begotten these for me, since I have been bereaved of my children, and am barren, an exile and a wanderer? And who has reared these? Behold, I was left alone; from where did these come?" (Isaiah 49:20-21).
"Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman," says the LORD . . . O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones. And all your sons will be taught of the LORD; and the well-being of your sons will be great (Isaiah 54:1, 11-13).
"Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?" says your God (Isaiah 66:7-9).
Nations of the earth will yet be considered sons of Israel. This was God’s original plan and is still in effect. However, Israel has suffered, is suffering, and must continue to suffer the agony of that birthing until the birthing process is complete.
I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro . . . For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, the anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, saying, "Ah, woe is me, for I faint before murderers" (Jeremiah 4:23-24, 31).
Now these are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah, "For thus says the LORD, ‘I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see, if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it’ " (Jeremiah 30:4-7).
Now why do you cry out loudly? Is there no king among you, or has your counselor perished, that agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth? Writhe and labor to give birth, Daughter of Zion, like a woman in childbirth . . . Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel (Micah 4:9-10, 5:3).
The essence of the mystery of Israel and the Church is contained in these Scriptures, which most clearly portray Israel in the form of Zion, or the Daughter of Zion, as the woman of Revelation 12 on earth in the agony of childbirth. This model represents the constraints in which natural chosen Israel has been placed until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, at which time God will restore this remnant of Israel to the degree of the original promises. She is a special set-aside remnant of the elect called to a specific purpose --- to birth the Gentile Church. This is not about two Churches. This is about a one-new-man company Church under construction (see Ephesians 2:13-22).
Children of the Kingdom, which Israel has not physically birthed, will be attributed to her as her spiritual children. Children of Ruth (Gentiles), fathered in spirit by their Kinsman-Redeemer, will be considered the spiritual children of Naomi (Israel). Even as Obed nursed on Naomi’s lap, the nations are portrayed as nursing at the bosom of Jerusalem. It is the mystery of Israel’s birthing of the Gentile Church that releases Gentile wombs to reciprocate and be fruitful on Israel’s behalf.
Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world (John 16:21).
"Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, that you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom." For thus says the LORD, "Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 66:10-13).
The birth pains she has suffered throughout the age have been to a measurable extent for the benefit of the Gentiles.
For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy . . . Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways (Romans 11:30-31, 33)!
May God hasten the day when their blindness will be supernaturally removed and they will say, "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!"
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!" (Matthew 23:37-39).
They will be forgiven, born again, Spirit-filled, and regrafted into the one-new-man company. Let us not fail to incorporate these magnificent promises to Zion into our vision and understand that they are yet to be fulfilled in a restored Jerusalem in a restored Israel.
Until . . .
The irrevocable covenant that God made with Abraham was not dependent on the performance of Israel as a nation. Although the covenant was not revoked, their disobedience brought judgment upon them.
And he said, "Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed" (Isaiah 6:9-10).
The woman is still trapped under the Genesis curse until . . .
Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered, "Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people, and the land is utterly desolate, the LORD has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump" (Isaiah 6:11-13).
The fullness of the Gentiles will not come in until Jerusalem ceases to be trampled on by the Gentiles. That does not happen until the very end of the age. The outer court is given to the nations, and the holy city is trampled upon until the very end of the last three and one-half years of the age. This should not be entirely spiritualized, for measuring rods mentioned in the Bible are always used to measure physical objects.
And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months" (Revelation 11:1-2).
. . . and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.(Luke 21:24).
According to these Scriptures, the times of the Gentiles extend to the very end of the last three and one-half years of the age. Jerusalem is currently being trampled upon by the Gentiles. That didn’t stop in 1967. The outer court is currently given over to the Dome of the Rock. At the time of this writing, Jews cannot worship openly on the temple mount, or an international incident will ensue. Israel must remain in partial blindness until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The outworking of this will be the ever increasing birth pains known as Jacob’s distress or Jacob’s trouble. Israel will come to realize that she is but a valley of dry bones. She will be brought to the very end of herself. Her refusal and inability to see up until the very end will bring upon her the increasing throes of the birthing process. And this agony must continue until such time as her children are born.
This is a difficult word, but I believe the level of destruction indicated can only lead to the conclusion that the present nation of Israel, except for a remnant, is an Ishmael nation. It was founded and perpetuated largely by the efforts of man, even though the supernatural hand of God was involved not only in her birthing but in her survival. Because even the birth of Ishmaels serves the ultimate purposes of God. The line of the redeemed, however, is through Isaac and not Ishmael. Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
"Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob," declares the LORD (Amos 9:8).
The prophetic Scriptures which detail the destruction of Jerusalem at the very end of the age are too many and too descriptive to allow cataloging that destruction in history past. Israel’s judgments are a direct result of their refusal to turn to their God. Since the present nation still refuses to turn to their God and is firmly entrenched in the same activities that led to prior judgments, increasing judgment must come. The original promises to Moses in the form of blessings and curses depend on the heart of the people toward their God and clearly indicate that when the nation perseveres in ignoring their God, God will persevere in increasing His judgments against them until they can no longer ignore Him. And this last judgment will be one that is so devastating in magnitude and in the nature of its supernatural reversal and restoration that it is always followed by these words, "And then they will know that I am God." In the ashes of yet another future holocaust will be found the remnant seed that God will supernaturally restore. It is the Gentile Church’s call not only to stand by their blinded brethren during this time of devastation, but also to lay down their lives when called as redemptive seed in that restoration. The birth of the restored nation will be a supernatural birth that will stagger all of creation. Then they will know that HE is God. The present nation does not yet know and chooses not to consider it, hence the increasing magnitude of the judgment that must come to get their attention and turn them back to their God.
If she is a sign of physically sealed Israel held in the constraints of childbirth for the benefit of the Gentiles, then we should be able to identify somewhere in Scripture such a group of Israelites specifically protected on earth from the onslaughts of Satan during the last three and one-half years of the age. Such a group matches the initial group of 144,000 bondservants of Revelation 7, selected from twelve tribes of Israel and protected from the demonic assaults of the fifth trumpet judgment. This will be further explored in the next chapter.
The One-new-man Company
Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands --- remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:11-16).
It is this Church and no other that Paul identifies in Ephesians 3:10 as the Church that will allow the demonstration of God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Micah 5:3 continues to take on greater clarity.
Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel (Micah 5:3).
What does it mean that the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel, other than the rest of the woman’s offspring in the form of a largely Gentile Church will come into union with God’s originally chosen people? It will not be a Church divided or a Church that has replaced Zion. It will be His brethren returning to Zion, and the two will become the one-new-man Church, represented spiritually by the Heavenly Jerusalem located on the Heavenly Mount Zion.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).
The woman of Revelation 12 is not yet the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21. The New Jerusalem will be a one-new-man company of Jew and Gentile comprising all of the redeemed of history, established by God after the millennial reign of Christ on earth from the earthly Mt. Zion in earthly Jerusalem. The woman and her children of Revelation 12 will eventually make up the New Jerusalem, but at the time of the vision, she, along with her children, are components of that future city still in the stages of restoration and development. As of Revelation 12, the bride has not yet made herself ready. As of today, Israel has not yet returned to their God, and the Church is not yet a bride without spot or wrinkle. But praise God, we are in the midst of birth pains ever increasingly designed to make us that way.
"Father, we desperately need Your wisdom and revelation to understand especially these Scriptures. The mystery of Your chosen people Israel and Your Church seem to be the very heart of this heavenly vision. Would You pour out fresh revelation into these areas so that we are armed with proper understanding and vision as we enter the very end of the age. Enlarge our understanding and vision, Father, of these things. Thank You, Father, for allowing Gentiles to be ingrafted as branches of the tree of the Holy Root. Thank You that because of the disobedience of one, another has been given mercy; and that because of the mercy given to another, mercy will be given to the one. Oh Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel. As we meditate on these awesome Scriptures, the love for Your chosen people burns in our hearts! May the peace of Jerusalem come forth! May Your Word and Law proceed forth from Jerusalem and may all nations, as sons of Israel, come to that place of blessing to witness the brightness of Your Glory. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen."