Good evening and welcome to EBible Fellowship's Bible study in the Book of Revelation. Tonight is study #1 of Revelation, chapter 12, and we are going to be looking at 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 pained to be delivered.
I will stop reading there. We have been pretty intently going chapter after chapter in the Book of Revelation that has been focused on Judgment Day. Back in Revelation, chapter six, God spoke of Judgment Day toward the end of the chapter and, in chapter 7, there was information regarding Judgment Day. In chapter 8, there was language concerning the judgment on the churches and then in the last verse of Revelation, chapter 8, verse 13 transitioned to judgment on the world. Then chapter 9 focused on the judgment on the unsaved persons of the world and also of judgment on the churches at the point of judgment on the world.
Then we got into the “three woes” and the second woe carried us though Revelation, chapter 10, a chapter in which God was, once again, discussing the judgment on the world. In Revelation, chapter 11, God went back to the beginning of the church age and carried us all the way through the Great Tribulation period and right back into Judgment Day, as we just concluded that chapter and its great focus in the last several verses on the Day of Judgment.
Now, in Revelation 12, God is backtracking, in a sense, and He is returning to the point of the birth of Christ and the establishment of the New Testament church age and then followed, in chapter 13, by the Great Tribulation and the judgment on the churches. Then, again, in Revelation chapters 14, 15 and 16 we will have another very intense focus on Judgment Day and the end of the world.
God has done this before. Again, during the second woe at the beginning of Revelation 11, He went back and covered ground that had already been covered. It is a review and a reminder, and it is always good for us to be reminded of the truths of the Bible, whatever those truths might be. If God thinks it is wise and if God thinks it is appropriate for us to “take a step back” and, once again, consider the coming of the Lord into this world and how the church age was set up, followed by the judgment on the churches, then that is exactly what we will do. That is the benefit and the blessing which comes with going through the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. We are not skipping over anything and we are not avoiding anything. We are trying to face everything the Bible says and we are following the direction that God leads us. If He wants to go, again, to the first coming of Christ, then we go to Christ’s coming.
So this tells us that the Book of Revelation is not written in chronological order and we should not try to force chapter 12 to fit somehow after chapter 11. If you have been following along, you have seen that we are at the seventh trumpet – it is Judgment Day and the final end of mankind. God took us there and in order for Him to continue (and He does want to reveal more truth about that time), He wants to take us back to a beginning point and lead us, from a slightly different perspective, back to the same topic of the final judgment. We are blessed by this and this is how God has written the Bible – He repeats things to pound an issue home, again, and again. We find some wise counsel concerning this in 2Peter 1:12-15:
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
That is the nature of the Bible. God is going to remind us and bring us “in remembrance, though ye know them.” This says a lot about our nature – we are “forgetful hearers.” We are quick to forget the things God has said to us, so He has to continually talk about it, again, and again. It is a good thing for us to be reminded.
Well, let us get into Revelation 12:1:
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:
Then verse 2 tells us that she was with child and travailed in birth and pain to be delivered and, as we go on, we see that she brought forth a man child. This is referring to the body of true believers. It is not referring to Mary because the same woman, a little later, is said to flee into the wilderness, where she is hid of God and nourished 1,260 days. Historically, that never happened to Mary. She was the woman God used to literally bring forth Christ, but God, here, has in view the elect, not the corporate body (as Israel of the Old Testament was the corporate body, just as the churches in the New Testament were the corporate body).
This woman is “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” The sun represents the Lord Jesus Christ and to be “clothed with Christ” indicates righteousness and that was never true of Old Testament Israel, the corporate entity, and it was never true of the New Testament corporate body either, but it has always been true of the true believers, the elect. When we look at the moon under her feet and the crown of twelve stars, we will see that they do point to the eternal “church” which is comprised only of the elect.
Let us look at the part of this verse in Revelation 12:1:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven…
The Greek word translated as “wonder” is “semeion,” Strong’s #4592, and it is equally translated either as “sign” or “miracle.” When we are reading the New Testament, we may find this word translated as “wonder,” as it is here in verse 1 or in verse 3, or we may find it translated as “miracle,” as when Jesus performed certain miracles. It can also be translated as “sign,” and we are going to look at some of these. This word is translated as “sign” a few times, like we read in Matthew 24:3:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
In other words, they are asking, “What sign will you give us?” Let us look at something else first and then we will come back to Matthew 24, because this is important and that is Jesus’ response when some Jews demanded a “sign” from Him, in Matthew 16:1:
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
This word “sign” is a translation from the same Greek word “semeion.”
Then it says in Matthew 16:2-4:
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
Five times in these few verses, the same word “semeion” is used and it is translated every time as “sign.” They came and desired of Jesus, “Show us a sign from heaven.” Jesus first pointed out that they “can discern the face of the sky.” They are able to look at some of the indicators in the physical realm, like in the heaven or sky above them. They were able to determine the weather, to a certain degree, but they could not discern “the sign of the times.” Notice that he said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it,” but then He adds, “but the sign of the prophet Jonas.” It is almost a contradiction – He is not going to give them a sign, but then He does. But it is not a contradiction because when a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, where do they seek it? They want to something in the physical realm – something they can see, touch, smell or sense. They want to see something “material” or something that is obvious and then they will believe. But no such sign will ever be given. No sign will ever be given that is physical. In this case, you will not be given a physical sign that Jesus is the Messiah.
So when the disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” the sign they will be given will not be a physical sign – it will not be in the sky above, as when man sees the signs of the weather.
So, in Matthew 16, Jesus says that no physical sign will be given except for the “sign of the prophet Jonas.” That is the “sign” that the Bible allows and which God will give, if you want to know if Christ is the Messiah or if you want to know the “sign of his coming and of the end of the world.” By the way, is it not something that the disciples would dare to ask that kind of question? How arrogant. Just think what the churches would answer today to the disciples’ question: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The churches would respond, “No man knows.” Do not look into it. Do not even speculate about these things. Do not even consider “signs” of coming and the end of the world. When the disciples are asking this question, what are they really asking? They are really asking, “How can we know when the world will really end?” It is highly significant that Jesus does not rebuke them for asking. He does not say to them (and this would have been the perfect place to say it), “Oh, it is not for you. Do not enter into this area of thought. Do not ask this type of question. You just focus on what you should focus on.” Jesus does not do that. As a matter of fact, He goes on to answer their question throughout Matthew 24, as we read of the “falling away” and false prophets arising and He talks about the Great Tribulation period and then He gets into the transition into Judgment Day: “Immediately after the tribulation, the sun shall be darkened.” Then there is the reference to Noah and the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah and when we check out those historical events, they picture the end of the world, and that is the question Christ responds to. When we go back into the Book of Genesis, we find that God forewarned Noah before the flood. God forewarned Lot before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
If you are going to get a “sign” of the coming end of the world, you need to get that sign before the event actually happens. It is sort of like thinking that God would come to Noah after the flood starts and after the ark has been lifted up by the water and He says, “Now here is the sign of the flood.” That would be ridiculous. I do not need a sign of the flood now – I am already in the ark and the waters are covering the earth. But 120 years before that time, God came to Noah and told him to build the ark and, more specifically, seven days prior to the flood, the Lord said, “For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” That was a sign that pointed to a specific occurrence.
That is what the disciples are asking when they asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” In order to give the answer, it must follow the Biblical principal that no (physical) sign will be given to an evil and adulterous generation, “but the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Now how do we learn about the sign of the prophet Jonah? If you heard Christ speak that day long ago when He spoke to these Pharisees, how could you have learned about that sign? Maybe you had never heard of Jonah. Well, the only way to learn about “the sign of the prophet Jonah” is to read about it in the Bible because God has written and given us the Book of Jonah, four chapters in the Old Testament. There we read of God sending the prophet Jonah to Nineveh and Jonah fleeing to a ship and then he was cast overboard, swallowed by a whale and vomited out on dry ground right by the shores of Nineveh. Then he went into that city and declared, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Then you could find out about the “sign of the prophet Jonah,” and where did you discover that sign? It was in the Bible and that is the key to what Jesus is saying; there will be no physical outward manifestation or, in other words, there will be no indicator out there in the world that will point to His coming and of the end of the world. You cannot learn about the end of the world because a Communist country has taken over some other country. You cannot learn about the end of the world just because there is “great evil,” as there was in World War II with the concentration camps. These things have nothing to do with it. You cannot learn the sign from political events, the death of famous people, or men that rise up or are put down. Take your eyes off all that and put in on “the sign of the prophet Jonah.” In the Bible God speaks of the sign of His coming and the end of the world and it is only there that a person can learn of these things.
Also, in the book of Matthew, we read in Matthew 24:29-30:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Some people say that is speaking of the actual “end of the world” which describes a literal coming of Christ that we could see with our eyes. Again, what kind of sign would that be? What kind of sign is it when the world is being destroyed right before your eyes? That is not a sign – that is the reality. That is the actual event or happening that is taking place and there is no “sign” involved. The question was, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The sign has to be given first, then you can learn of the reality which the sign points to.
Here, it says, “Immediately after the tribulation,” and the Great Tribulation began on May 21, 1988 and continued for exactly 23 years until May 21, 2011. Then immediately after the tribulation, we read in verse 30: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man.” Now let us go to Luke 21:24:
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
This is very familiar language to the child of God who has been studying these things. It is language that describes the judgment on the churches, as judgment begins on the house of God and it fits in perfectly with Revelation 11, as God likens the churches to “Jerusalem” and Satan and his emissaries are the Gentiles that come against the churches and tread down the camp of the saints, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled. It was given him to continue for the duration of the Great Tribulation. Again, the Great Tribulation ended on May 21, 2011, after an exact 8,400 days.
Then look at Luke 21:25:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
In the other accounts, in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, it just says that the sun shall be darkened and the moon will not give its light, but in Luke 21 God adds a very important statement: that these things are “signs.” Now if the sun were literally darkened, it would not be a “sign” but it would be the reality, but if the sun is darkened spiritually and the door of heaven shuts and the light of the Gospel is put out, then these are signs. And where can these signs be found? They are found on the pages of the Bible – only the Bible. It is telling us, just as Matthew 24:30 said when it referred to the “sign of the Son of man in heaven,” that signs can only be discerned in the Word of God.
By using this word “sign,” God is actually revealing to us that Judgment Day will not be seen by the physical eye, but by the spiritual eye of faith of the one found searching the Scriptures. That is where we will see the “sign of the Son of man.” That is where we will see the “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.” Remember, it said an evil and adulterous generation looks for a physical sign. We must look in the Bible and by God’s grace that is where He has led us – to look in the Scriptures and to be able to understand the things God has done at this point in time, in the Day of Judgment.