Updated: Jun 19
A great 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. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
Revelations 12: 1-5
One of John’s most amazing visions concerns this woman great with child. Who is this woman, her son, and this dragon? It is easy to jump to assuming that she is the Virgin Mary birthing Jesus. But Mary is just one person, just one piece of the puzzle of which this woman represents. The woman is the nation of Israel, God’s beloved. She is Jerusalem and Zion, the daughter that the Lord nurtured throughout the Old Testament. She has grown in number from the birth of her ancestor Isaac. Remember, the chosen son that the Lord announced to Abraham and Sarah in their old age?. She is God’s people freed from slavery, who had wandered in the desert for forty years before entering into the promised land of milk and honey.
In John’s vision, she is clothed with celestial symbols and wears a crown of twelve stars on her head. This daughter of God is not destined to be of the broken earth. She is much bigger than that; she is cosmic and supernatural and dressed in royalty and divinity. Together with the Holy Spirit, she will birth Jesus, her prophesied Yeshua and Messiah. The twelve stars of her crown are the twelve tribes of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These descendants carry with them the covenant of God to bless or curse all nations.
The huge red dragon is of course Satan. Remember, Satan rebelled from his home in the heavens before or shortly after the earth was created. We do not know from scripture when the third of the angels joined him in rebellion but John's Revelation tells us that at some future point in time, he and a third of the angels will be cast out from God's throne room forever and all eternity. Like a telescope, Revelation focuses backward far into time and then into the less distant past of Christ’s birth. It will within a few lines of its telling in this passage, focus on the future, how near or distant we cannot know.
The son that Israel births is the Son of God come from the heavens to the earth as the Son of Man. He was not murdered by Herod as a baby through the schemes of the enemy, Satan. He seemingly was “devoured” on a cross, but not before he was able to usher in His Father’s kingdom. He has been snatched up to God and to his throne. Interestingly, the greek word for “rapture” is here; God has snatched his one and only begotten son home to his side. This beginning of the chapter has already taken place. It has already occurred in the past for its writer, John, as well. Remember John is an old man now.
But let’s stop here for a moment. This lovely child of God, this daughter that birthed the exquisite Son of God, has rejected him, her own beloved Son. Israel has in fact led this offered lamb of God to slaughter. Jerusalem has remained stiff-necked, refusing to see and hear her Messiah’s pleas. Has she fallen so far to be forgotten and written out of God’s Book of Life?
The rest of Revelation 12 will take place in John’s future, beyond the times of our church-age and when Christ comes again and the Great Tribulation begins:
The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down. They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, 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. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. Revelations 12: 6-17
Do you remember the parting of the Red Sea? How the earth held back the waters from the fleeing Israelites? Do you remember the baptism of Jesus and the Trinity at the River Jordan? Now, let’s telescope back to earlier in John’s vision in a previous chapter. Remember, the scroll will be opened by the worthy Lamb, the Lion of Judah, and the first six seals of Tribulation will be read and breathed upon the beautiful but perverted earth. Please note, we will revisit these first six seals in the next lesson. But for now, let’s follow the thread of the future the Lord’s has for his daughter, Israel:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,…
Revelation 7: 1-5
What does it mean to you to have something snatched away? What valuable thing have you ever snatched away? Who did you snatch it from? Has anything valuable been taken away from you?
What has ever threatened your loved ones?
Were you able to protect them?
Joseph and the Twelve Tribes
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Genesis 37: 2-11
Remember the twins born to Isaac and Rebecca? Jacob, to be renamed Israel, was his mother’s favorite and Esau was his father’s. That didn’t bode well for that small family. Every one of us knows some degree of family dysfunction, and probably some form of favoritism. Jacob, now Israel, also had a favorite son. He loved Joseph over all his other sons for a very understandable reason; Joseph was Rachel’s son, and Rachel was Jacob’s truly beloved wife. By this time in Jacob’s story, his adored Rachel has died. Jacob clung to his first born son of Rachel. This was a problem. The book of Genesis is rich in its description of Joseph and his brothers. Feel free to read Jacob's entire story in Genesis 25-49.
As a young man, Joseph had two dreams. The first was about earthly matters, the all important harvesting of grain. The second was larger in scope and involved the cosmic, the supernatural. It was about heavenly matters and featured the sun, the moon and the stars. Two dreams, the first about the kingdom of the earth and the second about the kingdom of the heavens. Do you remember Joseph’s father’s dream? Jacob had seen the staircase with the angels going up and down connecting the heavens and the earth.
The brothers are annoyed with their younger brother. Joseph, the favorite, was given a coat of many colors by his father and Joseph had told them of these two dreams in which he is superior to them. But listen to his father’s reaction. He is angry as well at the audacity of the dreams and yet he kept the matter in mind. As the Virgin Mary pondered things in her heart, so did Jacob now Israel wonder at the divine at work here in the kingdom of the earth. Remember, Abraham, the great grandfather of Joseph, was given a Covenant promise by God. That promise had been repeated by the Lord to Isaac and to Jacob:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
And remember God doesn’t lie. He does not go back on his word. His word is the Word. We know what happened next in Joseph’s story. His brothers full of jealousy throw him into a pit and leave him to be sold into slavery.
Now listen as Joseph’s story grows and expands from the small microcosm of his family to the entire nation of Egypt. The detail in this story continues as Joseph the slave becomes the attendant to one of Pharaoh’s officials but Joseph is thrown into prison when his master’s wife falsely accuses him of making sexual advances on her: But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. Genesis 39: 20-21
Even in prison, the Lord was with him. What does this mean? We as Christians have been taught that the Holy Spirit was not able to indwell during the Old Testament time. Only after Christ’s atoning sacrifice does this gift happen. Yet, clearly Joseph seems to be dwelling with the Lord’s Presence. Perhaps Joseph had heard his father’s stories during his youth and had taken what Jacob struggled with to heart. Joseph, unlike his father, his grandfather, Issac, and his great grandfather, Abraham, never had a face to face encounter with the Lord. But he had a prophetic, supernatural ability to understand the Lord through dreams:
Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams. The first involved seven cows, sleek and fat, coming out of the river. These cows, are followed by seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, which eat the first healthy cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Genesis 41: 5-8
Did you catch the metaphor in the second dream? This is like Joseph’s first dream about the sheaves of grain. Joseph is sent for to interpret the dreams.
I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”... Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. ...So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Genesis 41: 16-41
Joseph is able to interpret and therefore warn Pharaoh of the future: Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. At this time, Joseph’s childhood dreams are unfulfilled. But Pharaoh’s dreams have placed Joseph in a position of authority over one of the most powerful nations of the earth. Now Egypt will be blessed in accordance with God’s covenant promise to Abraham. I will bless those who bless you.
Do you remember what happens next? The famine hits Egypt and the surrounding lands, including Canaan where Joseph’s family dwells. Hearing of the wise plan put into play by Pharaoh, Jacob sends his 10 oldest sons to buy grain. Now, Joseph encounters his brothers who placed him in the pit so many years ago. The story is very complicated as to how Joseph treats his brothers but here are the pertinent details:
Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked, “From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them... Genesis 42: 6- 9
Here is the fulfillment of Joseph’s first dream. Joseph controls the stores of grain and his brothers are seeking grain. As in his dream, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. Later in the story, Joseph reveals himself:
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Genesis 45: 3-7
Now let’s take a moment to listen to the imagery in Joseph’s second dream. This language reminds me of John’s supernatural, cosmic vision. Here again is the sun, the moon and the stars. Whereas Joseph’s first dream of the grain, along with Pharaoh’s similar dream are about the earth, these two dream visions are about the heavens. Could it be that Joseph’s dream of the sun, the moon, and the stars is not only about him and his immediate family but even more so about the future of God’s holy Nation of Israel? Could it be that Joseph’s second dream prophesied John’s vision of this woman clothed with the sun?
The woman clothed with the sun is pregnant with the Son of God, the light of the world. Joseph has in fact saved the Messiah's mother nation of Israel from starvation. The twelve sons of Jacob who were to become the twelve tribes would have vanished but for Joseph's wise counsel to Pharaoh.
Do you remember Jesus’ feeding of the 5000? And then of the 4000? Do you remember who made up the crowd of the 5000? Jewish men, women and children. And the 4000? Gentile men, women and children. Here is the Lord’s covenant to Joseph’s great-grandfather, Abraham. The blessing promised is the Word of Christ that brings with it eternal life. Rejection of Christ’s Word is rejection of eternal life, a curse for sure.
Joseph has prefigured and foreshadowed Jesus Christ as the messiah for his family. Joseph has joined his brothers again and become one of the twelve stars that make up the woman’s crown. These stars are the twelve tribes of God’s beloved Nation of Israel. Do you remember Joseph’s wise response to his brother’s understandable fear from their past actions? But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth. One of Paul’s most powerful sermons to us as Christian’s concerns this remnant:
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! ... God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. ... So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. ... I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved...
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Romans 11: 1-29
What does this mean? The Lord God has not forgotten his beloved daughter, Israel. So much of the Book of Revelation deals with the living Lord’s redemption of his chosen people. He has promised to put his very seal on their foreheads; he is claiming them again as his own. He will rescue them and bring them home to where he dwells.
Joseph’s prophecies had cosmic and supernatural implications. Through the Nation of Israel, God is able to make complete his irrevocable promise to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Remember that we Christians came out of this nation of Israel.The blood of the sacrificial goat that the brothers dipped Joseph’s robe in has become the blood of the sacrificial lamb of Christ.
What dreams can you remember? Have you had any dreams that you think were prophetic?
Every one of us knows some degree of family dysfunction, and probably some form of favoritism. What have you experienced in your family? Think about both your childhood and your adult families. What lasting effects do you find. What is generational sin?
What promises have you made? Did you keep your promise? If you didn’t, what happened to cause you to break it? Is it ever appropriate to break a promise? Why?
Has anyone ever broken a promise to you?
What have you ever accused someone of?
What have you been accused of?
What could Satan accuse you of?
The 29:11 Story
We, those who keep God’s commands and hold fast to our testimony about Jesus, are waiting for the kingdom of the Heavens to be joined with the kingdom of the Earth. We long for the Kingdom of God to be reconciled. The bead for the broken Church-age heavens is found next to the rainbow bead of God’s throne room and Christ’s Second Coming. It is a blue bead that reflects the heavens but it is marred by the red of sin. Now, in our time, Satan still accuses us before God. But now, Christ sits at his Father’s ride side as our advocate. When Christ returns, the accuser and deceiver, Satan, will be cast out of the heavens forever. Do you remember the story of Job? Satan’s access to his creator’s throne room will be over.
Joseph’s bead on the 29:11 Story follows the grey bead of his father, Jacob. It is followed by a bronze bead that is the twelve tribes of Israel that will become the great nation promised by God. Joseph, who does not seem to wrestle with God, is multicolored like an ornate robe, or a coat of many colors. But this colorful bead also reflect’s Joseph’s second cosmic dream about the sun, the moon and the stars.
Shortly before my dear sister-in-law died, when she was very weak, two of her best friends were watching over her. She had been asleep, and when she woke up, she was visibly calm. “Did you have a nice dream?” One of her friends asked “No, I was not asleep, I’ve been in heaven watching my grandchildren play,” she responded. Jane had no grandchildren at that time. She does now and I like to think of her watching them from above us. Did Jane have a dream or did she have a prophetic vision? Did God really show my William colors that we here on earth can only imagine?
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
The passage with the woman clothed with the sun tell us that Satan will be cast out of God’s throne room and the heavens finally for ever. Reread Revelation 12: 10-12. How will Satan finally be defeated? I’m looking for an answer that contains two critical elements. Does this surprise you? What does this mean to you? How important are we to our God?
Read Revelation 6: 9-11. This is the fifth seal that the Lamb opens. Now reread Revelation 7. Who are these dressed in white?
Read Revelation 20. We’re jumping far ahead of John’s vision for our future. What do you find about the martyrs? Can you summarize about what this chapter adds to God’s plan? This is the 1000 year reign of Christ. Why is it important? She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”
Think about fullness and God’s desire for us to scatter and fill the earth. Now read Revelation 21. What will happen to the nations?
Read Romans 11 again.
Read Genesis 45: 3-7. What do you read about a remnant?
Define covenant again. What was and is and will be God’s promise to his chosen people?
What has happened to God’s beloved nation of Israel since the death and resurrection of Christ?
John witnesses: But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. What else have we studied that involved the earth’s mouth? Read Genesis 4: 1-12
What is written in God’s Book of Life?
Read Luke 10: 20. Whose names does Jesus refer to here?
Hebrews 12: 22-23. Who does Paul refer to here?
Exodus 32: 31-32. Who is this conversation between?
Psalm 139: 16. Who is this conversation between?
Daniel 12:1. Who is Michael?
Revelation 3: 5. This is a promise to who?
Revelation 13: 8, and 17: 8. Who is addressed here?
What does Revelation 20: 11-15 add?
What do you find in Revelation 21:27?