Woman's Birth
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47. Woman's Birth
Revelation 12.13-17

"When the dragon saw that God had hurled him to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman received a great eagle's two wings so that she might fly to the wilderness place prepared for her, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. Then from his mouth, the serpent spewed water like a river to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. The earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river the dragon had spewed from his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony of Jesus." (Revelation 12.13-17) ✞

Being Chased

Lamb of GodThere is no worse feeling than being chased, especially for a woman about to give birth. One's very life seems to hang on the ability to outrun the predator. The heart pounds, and the mind races through possible escapes to shake off the pursuer. As she gives birth, the woman fears for her life. The chase begins in heaven as the Lamb overcomes Satan and dispatches him to the earth. Many believe that Satan still has access to God until this time, as he does in the Book of Job, where he argues the case against the righteous Job. Here, his entrance is forever barred. He can no longer accuse people before God and therefore proceeds to turn his wicked ways elsewhere.

Woman's Persecution

SerpentIn Revelation, the serpent spews water on the seashore to drown the woman and sweep her away, but the earth opens up, and she soars away on wings. When the dragon crashes into the ground, "he pursued the woman." The wings of an eagle pick up the woman, and she soars from her pursuer to the desert. The water and the woman's pursuit parallel the Egyptians' chase of Israel into the Exodus wilderness. "The two wings of a great eagle" echo the assurance of God in Sinai, "I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself" in Exodus 19.4. The dragon can disable the child by injuring the mother. To harm the church is to damage Jesus Christ. The phrase, "the dragon stood on the seashore," may mean, "I stood on the seashore," as if John of Patmos is watching the action from the seashore as it unfolds.

Eagle's Wings

Eagle's WingsThe eagle's wings rescue the woman and her newborn baby from the dragon. An ancient floor tile detail shows this. The wilderness, in this case, can be translated as "desert." The woman escapes on "the two wings of a great eagle." In the Old Testament, eagle wings symbolize the supportive, rescuing, and bearing arms of God. Deuteronomy 32.11-12 tells us that "like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone did lead him." When the church allegorized Scripture, the most influential third-century theologian, Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD), saw in "the eagle's wings" the symbol of "the two holy arms of Christ outstretched upon the Cross." Sadly, according to tradition, Saint Hippolytus was dragged to his death in c235 AD by wild horses. There is a striking parallel in the mythological Hippolytus, meaning "unleasher of horses" or "destroyed by horses," who is dragged to his death by wild horses at Athens. Hippolytus identified with the Roman forest god "Virbius." ✞

Jewish People's Fears

Hippolytus in Floor Tiles In this Revelation passage, the second picture is of the floods of water spewed out by the serpent's mouth. We see how the dragon of chaos is the Revelation sea dragon, and therefore to connect the floods with the dragon is quite natural. In the Old Testament, an overwhelming flood illustrates tribulation and persecution. Psalm 42.7 reads, "All your waves and breakers have swept over me." Many Israelis feared water bodies like the Mediterranean Sea and believed demons killed someone who drowned beneath the waves. Because Israelis feared water so much, Phoenician sailors were employed to bring goods like wood, stone, and silver by boat to Israel. Here in Revelation, God assures us that we can be confident in the Almighty's eagle wings to rescue and support us despite the persecution waves. The Risen Christ's words in Acts 9.4. to Saint Paul on the Damascus road are, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" The church receives Paul's persecution, but the Risen Christ clarifies that the church's abuse is the persecution of himself in this Revelation passage.

Christian Persecution

Floods of WaterThe great eagle rescues the woman, and the serpent spews water like a river. The Devil persecutes Christians and is enraged. "God's commands" may be translated as "God's commandments." God promises in Psalm 32.6 that "Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while they may find you. Surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them." Psalm 124.1-4 adds, "If the Lord had not been on our side, let Israel say, when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us. The flood would have engulfed us. The torrent would have swept over us. The raging waters would have swept us away." "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you," says Isaiah 43.2a. The Devil's persecution of Christians and their rescue finish this Revelation chapter. When "the serpent spewed water like a river," the earth swallowed them, and so the woman was saved. In Asia Minor, near Colossae, rivers are routinely swallowed up in the sand only to reappear after traveling a distance underground and may have been in John of Patmos' mind.

Moral Order

Archdeacon James FroudeNature itself is on the side of the person who is faithful to Jesus Christ. The English historian James Froude (1818-1894) wrote about Exodus 19.4, "In the world, there is a moral order, and in the long run it is well with the good, and ill with the wicked." John of Patmos pictures the dragon at war with the woman's family, which is the church. This story bears witness to the coming persecution of the Christian Church. As John of Patmos sees it, Satan's casting down to earth, and his last terrible convulsion, is going to involve the whole church family in the agony of Christian persecution. ✞

"Woman's Birth"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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