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Woman of the Apocalypse

The phrase Woman of the Apocalypse refers to a character from the Book of Revelation 12:1-18:
1 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. 2 And being with child, she cried travailing in birth: and was in pain to be delivered. 3 And there was seen another sign in heaven. And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns and on his heads seven diadems. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered: that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her son was taken up to God and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her, a thousand two hundred sixty days.

7 And there was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought, and his angels. 8 And they prevailed not: neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world. And he was cast unto the earth: and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ: because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of the testimony: and they loved not their lives unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens, and you that dwell therein. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the man child. 14 And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert, unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth, after the woman, water, as it were a river: that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. 16 And the earth helped the woman: and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. 18 And he stood upon the sand of the sea.

Interpretations

Roman Catholic

The Church

The Catholic Church recognises in the 'woman' primarily the Church herself. However, given the similarities to Mary's life, The Church acknowledges the obvious invitation in the holy verses for the reader to ponder the mysteries between The Mother of God and the Church. As Pope John Paul II says in his encyclical, Evangelium vitae (1995), http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0141/__P13.HTM:

103. The mutual relationship between the mystery of the Church and Mary appears clearly in the "great portent" described in the Book of Rev- elation: "A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (12:1). In this sign the Church recognizes an image of her own mystery: present in history, she knows that she transcends history, inasmuch as she constitutes on earth the "seed and beginning" of the Kingdom of God. 139 The Church sees this mystery fulfilled in complete and exemplary fashion in Mary. She is the woman of glory in whom God's plan could be carried out with supreme perfection.

The "woman clothed with the sun"-the Book of Revelation tells us-"was with child" (12:2). The Church is fully aware that she bears within herself the Saviour of the world, Christ the Lord. She is aware that she is called to offer Christ to the world, giving men and women new birth into God's own life. But the Church cannot forget that her mission was made possible by the motherhood of Mary, who conceived and bore the One who is "God from God", "true God from true God". Mary is truly the Mother of God, the Theotokos, in whose motherhood the vocation to motherhood bestowed by God on every woman is raised to its highest level. Thus Mary becomes the model of the Church, called to be the "new Eve", the mother of believers, the mother of the "living" (cf. Gen 3:20).

The Church's spiritual motherhood is only achieved-the Church knows this too-through the pangs and "the labour" of childbirth (cf. Rev 12:2), that is to say, in constant tension with the forces of evil which still roam the world and affect human hearts, offering resistance to Christ: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:4-5).

Like the Church, Mary too had to live her motherhood amid suffering: "This child is set ... for a sign that is spoken against-and a sword will pierce through your own soul also-that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:34-35). The words which Simeon addresses to Mary at the very beginning of the Saviour's earthly life sum up and prefigure the rejection of Jesus, and with him of Mary, a rejection which will reach its culmination on Calvary. "Standing by the cross of Jesus" (Jn 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself: she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake. The "yes" spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ?Woman, behold, your son!' " (Jn 19:26).

Mary

Some Catholic apologists assign the identity of the woman to Mary after her assumption into heaven where she is revealed in all her glory as "Queen of Heaven," "Mother of all life" (she being the "second Eve"), and the exalted "Mediatrix of our redemption." The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, for one, has been described as a representation of the Woman of the Apocalypse.

Amillenialist

Commentators who adhere to Reform Theology and are Amillennial in their eschatology identify the woman as the Church, and the man-child she gives birth to are the saints. According to this interpretation, Revelation 12:17 describes the remnant of the woman's seed as those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. The offspring of the Woman, the Woman's seed, then refers to the saints. The man child is a symbol of the faithful members of the Church. In Revelation 2:27, it is promised that whosoever overcometh shall rule the nations with a rod of iron. In Revelation 19:15 the same thing is stated of Jesus.

Dispensationalist

Dispensational Premillennialists identify the woman as the nation of Israel. There are several reasons given to support this interpretation. The woman is said to be clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and twelve stars. These symbols are drawn from Genesis 37:9–11, in which the Joseph has a dream of the sun and moon symbolizing his father and mother and stars representing his brothers, which bow down to him. Old Testaments prophets referred to Israel as a "woman" (Is. 54:5-6; Jer. 4:31; Mic. 4:9-10). The woman flees into the wilderness where she is nourished for 1260 days, the equivalent of three and a half years or forty-two months (cf. Rev. 11:1-3). These terms are used prophetically in Scripture either for the first half or the last half of the "Seventieth Week of Daniel," in Dan. 9:24-27. A prophecy specifically addressed to Daniel and his people, Israel (Dan. 9:24). In the latter part of the seventieth week a remnant of Israel will flee into the wilderness to escape the persecution of Antichrist, who is called "the son of destruction," "the lawless one," and "whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan" (2 Thess. 2:1-12; cf. Rev. 12:4, 9). Jesus, in the Olivet discourse, warned the people of this time which would occur just prior to His return to set up His earthly, Millennial kingdom (Matt. 24:15-22). Further, Michael the archangel is called the guardian over the sons of Israel in Dan. 12:1. And he will arise at that time of national Israel's tribulation (Dan. 12:1; cf. Rev. 12:7).

Other

The Woman is also identified as Eve because she is part of the three-way conflict also involving her Seed and the Dragon, who is identified with the ancient serpent (the one from Eden) in verse 9 and Revelation 20:2. This mirrors the conflict in Genesis 3:15 between Eve, the serpent, and her unborn seed—which in turn is a symbol of the conflict between Mary, Satan, and Jesus.

References

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