Revelation 12:1-2

When I was a kid I used to love boxing. The town I was born in had a rich history of boxing and it was a very popular. At the time the Canadian Middleweight Champion, Blair Richardson, was from South Bar, which was, as the crow flies, was about two or 3 miles miles from where I lived—it was right across the harbor. My great grandparents actually lived in South Bar so it was like I had this connection with him. He was a great boxer.

I used to listen to a lot of fights on the radio. I loved how they would introduce the fighters. They would describe how they come to the ring with their entourage and then, when the time for the fight came, they would say something like,

"In this corner, weighing 160 pounds, from South Bar, Blair Richardson. In this corner, weighing 163 pounds, from Miami Beach, the Champion, Gomeo Brennan."

It was so exciting. There was going to be a great battle and the two protagonists were there to do battle.

We have something like that in our text. Chapter 12 begins a new section of the book of Revelation. This section focuses on the war between God and Satan. In the first part of chapter 12 a couple of the main characters are introduced. In verse 1 we are told about a great and wondrous sign that appeared in heaven. It is a pregnant woman clothed with the sun. In verse 3 we read that another sign appeared in heaven—an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on the heads. These are two of the main characters in this war. This morning we're going to look at the first sign—the woman clothed with the sun. We read,

"A great and wondrous sign
appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet
and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
She was pregnant and cried out in pain
as she was about to give birth."

The first thing I want you to see here is that

the woman is a great and wondrous sign.

A sign is something that tells you something—it points to an important truth. For example, in Genesis 9 God promised Noah that He would never again send a flood that would destroy all life on earth. The sign of that promise was the rainbow. God said that every time He saw the rainbow He would remember His covenant with Noah and every living creature. Every time that Noah and his descendants saw the rainbow they were to call to mind God's promise and take comfort from it.

But what does the woman being a sign tell us? What does it signify? These are the important questions. But before we can understand what this sign shows us, we need to understand who the woman is. Roman Catholic commentators tell us that the woman represents Mary. She was the mother of our Lord, the one who gave birth to Him. In a sense it does refer to her. But the context here suggests that the woman represents much more than Mary. For instance, she is clothed with the sun and has the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars on her head—these things point back to Joseph's dreams in Genesis 37:9. In the first dream Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain in a field when Joseph's sheaf rose and stood upright and his brothers sheaves gathered round it and bowed down to it. In the second dream Joseph saw the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. When Joseph told his father, his father rebuked him and said,

Genesis 37:10

"What is this dream you had?
Will your mother and I and your brothers
actually come and bow down
o the ground before you?"

Jacob saw that he was the sun, Joseph's mother the moon, and his brothers the stars. This suggests that the woman who is presented here, first of all, represents the faithful of Old Testament Israel.

But there is more. In verse 6 we are told that after Jesus ascends to God the woman fled to the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she was taken care of for 1260 days. It is very unlikely that this refers to Mary. We saw in chapter 11 that the Gentiles trample the outer court of the temple for 42 months (1260 days) and that the two witnesses prophesied for 1260 days. Then in Revelation 13:5f we see that the beast out of the sea was authority for 42 months (1260 days) and made war against the saints. This suggests that the woman primarily represents the faithful people of God after the birth of Jesus.

Putting both these things together we see that, (G. K. Beale writes, Revelation: NIGTC, p. 625)

"this woman is a picture of the faithful community, which existed both before and after the coming of Christ."

But here in verse 1 the focus is on the woman before she gave birth to the Messiah. The picture there is of the woman who is pregnant and cries out in pain as she was about to give birth. In verse 1 she represents the Old Testament faithful community. So we should look at this first.

So what does this sign point us to?

I think the first thing it points to is the fact that

God was absolutely faithful to His promises. God was so committed to His people that He ensured that the Messiah was born.

Do you believe God's Word? Do you believe God's promises? As a Christian are you absolutely sure of God's commitment to you? Are you sure that God will overcome any obstacles in order to save you? God's love for you—how enduring is it? How enduring is it? God's commitment to His church—how strong is it?

This sign points you to God's irrevocable commitment to His people.

Before the foundation of the world God determined to save His people. His plan was to save them through His Son. He would do it by sending Jesus into the world.

The birth of Jesus was one of the focal points of history. If Jesus wasn't born there would be no salvation for human beings. Isn't it wonderful that when the time came for Jesus to be born He was actually born? As Galatians 4:4–5 says,

"But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son,
born of a woman,
born under law,
to redeem those under law,
that we might receive
the full rights of sons."

The first promise in Genesis 3:15 told us that the Messiah would come from the seed of the woman and that there would be enmity between the seed of the woman and the serpent. What a battle it was. We all know that after Jesus was born Satan tried to kill Him. Herod's killing the boys of Bethlehem 2 years old and younger was certainly an example of what we read in verse 4 here—the dragon stood in front of the woman about to give birth so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

The subsequent battle between Jesus and Satan is obvious to us. But we perhaps miss the miracle of God's protection of the godly seed so that Jesus might be born of Abraham's seed. But it started long before Abraham. Remember that Cain killed godly Abel? What was that about? It was about Satan trying to prevent the Messiah from being born.

But you'll recall that when Abraham was given the promise he was childless. We usually think about that in human terms. But we must understand that there was a great spiritual battle going on. The enmity between the seed of the woman and Satan was not just between Jesus and Satan—but it stretched back to Abraham and beyond.

I have no doubt that Satan was doing everything in his power to stop the child of promise from being born. Sarah was barren. Why was that? There were obviously many reasons but one of them was probably the hostility of Satan. Satan was resisting Isaac's birth. It wasn't until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 that Isaac was born. His birth was remarkable.

There were many other close calls for the ancestors of the Messiah. Remember how Jacob was afraid of Esau when he returned to the Promised Land. Was Esau going to kill Jacob and his children? Or think about the people of God in Egypt. Pharaoh had them in bondage. He wanted to kill all the boy babies that were born. He wanted to keep the Israelites in bondage. Think of how many times in the wilderness the people of Israel sinned against God. How many times Satan tried to destroy them. The incident of the golden calf. God told Moses to stand out of His way that He might destroy the people. It was only through Moses' intercession (the result of God's grace) that saved the people.

Consider the situation when the spies came back from spying out the land. The people lost heart and talked about going back to Egypt. When Moses tried to dissuade them they talked about stoning him and Aaron. Again, God threatened to destroy the people. It was only Moses' intercession that saved them.

Consider how Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites. When God wouldn't allow that Balaam came up with the idea of sending Midianite women into the camp so that God would be angry with the people and destroy them.

Consider the danger that David was in from King Saul. Time after time he barely escaped with his life. Think about David's sin and how that threatened God's plan to bring the Messiah from David's line.

Consider how the people of Israel were taken to Babylon. All hope seemed to be extinguished. How few they were. And in a foreign land. How could God's promises come to pass? Yet God brought a remnant back to the land.

Consider the condition of Mary when Joseph had to take her to Bethlehem. She was almost 9 months pregnant. How hazardous the journey must have been. I'm pretty sure that doctors today would recommend against a journey like that for a pregnant woman. Even when they got there—even though she was ready to give birth—there was no room at the inn. They had to go with the animals in the stable. The dangers of a child birth in a stable. They were considerable.

Yet, after it all—there was Mary, in a stable in Bethlehem—who gave birth to the long awaited Messiah.

What a sign! What glory. What faithfulness from God. There were so many things that stood in the way of Jesus birth—yet God overcame them all. God brought His plan to completion. As we read in 1 Timothy 3:16,

"Beyond all question,
the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory."

The second thing we should see here is that

the sign includes suffering and glory.

There is suffering here. We read,

"She was pregnant and cried out in pain
as she was about to give birth."

The woman cried out in pain.

How did Jesus come to be born? It as through much hardship for Mary. Her ordeal was very great. But her pain was just the last pain in a long series of difficulties and sufferings. Israel was giving birth to the Messiah—yet she was crying out in pain.

This teaches us something very important.

When things are difficult for us, when things are painful for us, when we have to suffer—even then God is faithful.

The fact that God's people suffer is not a sign that God abandons them. Here the woman is in pain and yet God's purposes are being accomplished through that pain.

To see this—notice the glory of the woman.

We read,

"A great and wondrous sign
appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet
and a crown of twelve stars on her head."

This sign appears in heaven. The church's real home is in heaven. She is clothed with the sun, has the moon under her feet and has a crown of twelve stars on her head.

G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 627, 625, 627)

"the woman's brightness connotes the heavenly identity and heavenly protection of the people of God, as well as their purity, which safeguards their ultimate spiritual invincibility against persecution and corruption by temptation, deception, or any vice… Similarly, the Israelites are likened to stars to underscore that in the time to come they will rule and not be ashamed… "The crown on the woman's head… connotes the saints' share in Christ's kingship and the reward that the true people of God throughout the ages receive for their victory over opposition to their faith, over, that is, persecution, temptations to compromise, and deception. The woman 'appears in her true heavenly and glorious character despite her seemingly fragile and uncertain earthly history (vv. 13–16).'"

Even in the suffering of the woman, there is glory, there is certainty of victory.

Christians, if you are going to be faithful to Jesus you'll have to suffer. But because of God, because of our Lord Jesus Christ—the gates of hell will not prevail. God will lead us to glory. So persevere. Embrace the cross and follow Jesus. He will accomplish His plan of salvation and see us through to the end.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

this sign shows you that you that your only hope is in Jesus.

Salvation comes from Israel. The dragon sought to destroy the woman. He's in front of her seeking to devour her child. Why? Because Satan knows that salvation can only come from the woman's child. From the Garden the Garden of Eden to through the coming of Jesus—Satan sought to prevent Jesus' birth and after He was born—sought to kill Him.

Satan, by his hostility and hatred toward the child—shows you the way to life. Go to Jesus, your only hope. Do it now.